Did the New York Times send a story on Donald Trump’s Poland visit to the White House for suggested changes? Or is Trump just so far inside editors’ heads that they moved a story massively toward stenography on their own? You only have to look at NewsDiffs to see the scope of the changes to the story by Glenn Thrush and Julie Hirschfeld Davis. Take the lede. It went from:
President Trump cast himself as a defender of Western values in a clash of civilizations during a dark and confrontational speech in Warsaw on Thursday, rebuking the news media, American intelligence agencies and Barack Obama during his visit to the European capital most hospitable to his right-wing nationalist message.
President Trump said on Thursday that Western civilization was at risk of decline, bringing a message about “radical Islamic terrorism” and “the creep of government bureaucracy” to the one European capital he views as most hospitable to his nationalist message.
The revised version of the story takes out the information that the “friendly Polish crowd” included “loyalists the governing party had bused in from the more-conservative countryside.” The revised version mentions “the right-wing government’s crackdown on judges and journalists and its refusal to accept more migrants, policies that have upset European Union leaders” but omits “opposition parties, which has deeply alarmed other European Union leaders” from the list of those facing the government crackdown.
These aren’t cosmetic changes. We can certainly talk about whether you want a news story to include the editorializing of “dark and confrontational speech,” but Trump’s attacks on the media, American intelligence agencies, and President Obama are definitely among the most newsworthy aspects of his Poland visit. His message is not just nationalist, it is definitely right-wing nationalist. It matters that Trump had a friendly crowd because the right-wing government bused that crowd in. It matters that said government has been cracking down not just on judges and journalists—though that’s plenty bad—but on opposition parties. This is important context for understanding Trump’s speech. And it’s context the Times took out.