Donald Trump attacked the “failing @nytimes” on Twitter Monday, attempting to cast doubt on its reporting.
Mr. Trump was apparently responding to a Times story published online Sunday and in the paper Monday headlined “Trump and Staff Rethinking Tactics After Stumbles.” The story relies largely on interviews with dozens of unnamed government officials, congressional aides and former Trump staffers and includes anecdotes that have not been published before. One says that the president’s aides “confer in the dark because they can’t figure out how to operate the light switches in the cabinet room.”
Times reporters Glenn Thrush and Maggie Haberman observed in the story that Mr. Trump and his team are changing their strategy after the “bungled rollout” of his executive order banning immigrants from seven countries, “a flurry of other miscues and embarrassments,” and historically low approval ratings for a first-term president. The story also says that Mr. Trump would, from now on, “be looped in on the drafting of executive orders much earlier in the process.”
The article also archly notes, “For a man who sometimes has trouble concentrating on policy memos, Mr. Trump was delighted to page through a book that offered him 17 window covering options.”
Mr. Trump often appends the word “failing” to the New York Times in his tweets, and in recent days referred to its “dwindling subscribers and readers.”
After the president tweeted about the “dwindling” audience for the Times, its CEO, Mark Thompson, addressed him directly during the 2016 fourth quarter earnings call last week, declaring, “Mr. President, we had spectacular audiences in the quarter with 220 million unique users coming to us in November.” Its digital growth was “unprecedented,” Thompson went on to say, noting that in the fourth quarter, the Times added 276,000 net new digital subscriptions -- more in that single quarter than in all of 2013 and 2014 combined.
Thompson also said that in the new quarter, post-election, the Times is “continuing to see remarkably strong numbers of new subscribers.”
Mr. Trump may not be right about the size of the Times’ audience, but the media company has been struggling. Growth on the digital side has not been enough to offset the losses in the Times’ more lucrative print advertising, which fell 16 percent for the year -- 20 percent for the fourth quarter. Total revenue was down 2 percent for the year for the Times. In the coming year, overall advertising is forecast to continue to fall off, though the Times expects digital advertising to increase 10 to 15 percent.