NY Times editor says Trump's danger to democracy is not a top concern

In a recent interview with Semafor's Ben Smith, New York Times executive editor Joe Kahn offered a laughable defense of the paper's coverage of the looming threat that Donald Trump poses to American democracy. When asked why the Times doesn't see its job as trying to "stop Trump," Kahn completely missed the point and said journalism's role is to provide "impartial information" rather than becoming a "propaganda arm."

Kahn seems to have confused fair reporting with sticking your head in the sand while fascism takes root. Smith wasn't asking the Times to publish partisan propaganda. He was simply asking why the Times is so reluctant to offer coverage that properly conveys the severity of the threat Trump represents through smarter framing and proportional emphasis.

But the potential end of democracy isn't an especially important issue to Kahn. "It's our job to cover the full range of issues that people have," he told Smith. "At the moment, democracy is one of them. But it's not the top one — immigration happens to be the top [of polls], and the economy and inflation is the second. Should we stop covering those things because they're favorable to Trump and minimize them?"

That's not all. As Greg Sargent points out in The New Republic, when the GOP's manufactured "concerns" about voter fraud are presented as morally equivalent to very real, documented concerns about Trump's insurrection and election denial, it skews readers' understanding of reality.

This is emphatically not a demand for ignoring Trump voters' concerns. Cover them, of course, but if journalists know those concerns to be largely baseless and know Democratic concerns are mostly grounded in things that happened—as in this case—the question is: Will the casual reader also come away grasping this? The two-different-realities device, which is ubiquitous, structurally works against that goal.

And Kahn's dismissal of worries over the Times giving wildly disproportionate attention to Biden's age as just demanding they "downplay" legitimate issues is "absurdly evasive."

The question is not whether Biden's age should be covered—of course it should—but whether attention to it is disproportional. And it plainly is disproportional, all across the media.

The Times makes editorial choices every day that shape how alarming certain storylines appear. If they truly see Trump as an existential danger, their coverage should reflect that same level of alarm. If they don't, then perhaps democracy was never more than a quaint little fad in the Times' view – easily discarded in favor of juicier stories about Biden's age and how polite neo-Nazi are.