You know what, your GetReligionistas did hear something about an interesting quote from New York Times executive editor Dean Baquet during yesterday's Fresh Air program on National Public Radio. We have also seen the blitz of Twitter reactions to his words.
It was something about elite journalists struggling to "get religion," right?
The headline for this interview was highly relevant, in light of the ongoing mainstream media meltdown in the wake of the White House win by Donald Trump. That would be: " 'New York Times' Executive Editor On The New Terrain Of Covering Trump." (That link includes the transcript and a link to the audio file.)
The interview includes all kinds of interesting material, including Baquet's take on the "fake news" phenomenon and life with a president-elect who is overly fond of Twitter.
The Times editor also explains why he believes that it's a recent phenomenon for journalists to feel obligated to cover both sides of heated public debates, especially when journalists believe they already know the key facts. Thus, they should just print what they believe is true and that's that. Is Baquet advocating a return to the candid advocacy (often called the European Model of the Press) that dominated American journalism until late in the 19th Century?
But we are, of course, primarily interested in the quote that launched waves of emails and tweets in this direction. That would be the section in which Baquet addresses a particular news beat that has given his newspaper problems:
I think that the New York-based and Washington-based too probably, media powerhouses don't quite get religion. We have a fabulous religion writer, but she's all alone. We don't get religion. We don't get the role of religion in people's lives.
You can see how some folks would think that we'd be interested in that. However, I think it's crucial to see the wider context of where that quote appeared in this interview.
Baquet and host Terry Gross are talking about Trump and his link to truly dangerous elements in American life, over on the fringes with racists and nationalists. That, for Baquet, links directly to anger in the American heartland and that links directly to, yes, religion.