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Why did the LA Times editorial board do that 6-part series on President Trump?




The Los Angeles Times Building in downtown Los Angeles, California on July 10, 2013. LA Times parent company Tribune Publishing recently purchased the San Diego Union-Tribune for $85 million, uniting the newspapers of California’s two largest cities.
The Los Angeles Times Building in downtown Los Angeles, California on July 10, 2013. LA Times parent company Tribune Publishing recently purchased the San Diego Union-Tribune for $85 million, uniting the newspapers of California’s two largest cities.
Frederic J. Brown/AFP/Getty Images

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This week, the L.A. Times dropped a series of editorials condemning President Donald Trump called the "The Problem with Trump."

Each day, the editorial board has served up a critical indictment of the new president, taking aim at everything from Trump's alleged falsehoods to his often-adversarial relationship with journalists. Though the editorials have received several shares, reader response has been (predictably) mixed. 

Take Two spoke about the editorials with Nick Goldberg, editor of the paper's editorial page.

Highlights

The opinion pages at The Times has taken on Trump in the past, but this is something new: It's six days of straight of itemized criticism. Why did you feel this was necessary?

We've been writing about Trump from the beginning. We've been critical of him from the beginning. We were one of the earliest papers to say that he was both unsuited and unfit for the job he was running for. We said that in the early days of the Republican primaries. 

Now he's president. We thought we were writing daily editorials about him, and we decided that it was important to try to pull it all together, connect the dots for people and give an assessment — we know it's early — but give an assessment of what we see happening in the presidency so far. 

That's what I was going to ask. Trump's been in the White House for five minutes. It seems like it's really early to make these sweeping judgments. 

He's been in office for more than five minutes, but he's also been on the campaign trail for more than a year. 

We had hoped against hope that the new president would be constrained by the people around him or he would feel the enormity of the responsibility of his office, and he would temper himself, but we're not seeing that happening. We're very nervous. 

Look, this is not the last thing we're going to write about Trump. We got four years to go. By all means, if he calms himself down, if he changes his ways, if he develops a different kind of personality than the one we've consistently seen over the last 20 years, then we're ready to reevaluate. 

The Times has received a lot of pushback from readers. And you've published some of that criticism. I want to ask about one that stood out to us titled:

"When the L.A. Times editorial board condemns Trump, it preaches to the choir"

What's your response to that, and is this series really designed to change anyone's mind?

Well, it's hard to change people's minds in the political climate we have right now. We always want to change people's minds. We always hope to persuade; that's why we lay out a coherent argument as best we can, whether we succeed, I'm not sure. 

I will say this: In the old days, the L.A. Times used to circulate to our subscribers in LA, where our paper was thrown down on their front yards every day. L.A. is a relatively homogenous community. If we write just for them, then you're right, we're probably preaching to the choir. 

But the reality of the internet and the reality of social media is that this piece, the first piece in this series went entirely viral. It was read by more than 4 million people, and those people weren't just in L.A., they were all over the country and all of the world. 

What's the end game, though? I can't imagine creating something like this and not thinking, "OK, if this happens, we can call it a success."

Well, I think we can call this series a success because it obviously struck a nerve. Four-and-a-half million people read the first installment, and millions more read the other pieces. Our job is to write what we think as clearly and honestly as we can and get it out to as many readers as we can. I think it was a huge success. 

But in terms of whether it persuaded people, how it will affect the Trump presidency, how it will affect Trump, I can't tell you the answer to that. 

The L.A. Times brand is still there, though. What do you say to people who point to the brand and say, "See? It's a partisan paper, just like always."

That's an important question because you're right, many people don't make a distinction between what we write in our opinion pages and what we write in our news pages.

The news pages — which are written entirely separately from our opinion pages — are supposed to be written by reporters who put their biases to the side, write as objectively as they can and present a story for readers to draw their own conclusions. 

The editorial pages are very different. There, we say what we think. We give our opinions, and it's important to us that readers understand that we can do the one and the other without compromising them. 

Press the blue play button above to hear the full interview. 
(Audio has been edited for clarity and brevity.)