31baker playback (attached)
Editing the Gray Lady’s analysis of the Trump indictment
Last night, the Manhattan district attorney’s office announced the first indictments against former President Donald Trump. Since we don’t know the charges yet — and likely won’t until his arraignment, expected next week — the coverage has consisted almost entirely of speculation.
On the right, that speculation has been, in a word, apocalyptic. Their theory seems to be that having a Republican president face any amount of accountability for crimes will spell the end of the republic, if not the world. On Tucker Carlson last night, right-wing operative Ned Ryun warned that, with the first criminal indictment of a former president, America is headed for a “one-party state and authoritarian government,” accused Democrats of “launching nukes at us,” and said the GOP should adopt a policy of “mutually assured destruction” in response. Carlson responded: “Probably not the best time to give up your AR-15, and I think most people know that.”
The centrist analysis has been more, well, centrist. For the most part, it takes right-wing panic as its starting point, re-focuses it on possible threats to the political elite in general, then tones it down and academicizes it a bit. The best example of this is the current lead story in the New York Times, a “news analysis” by Peter Baker, titled “A President Faces Prosecution, and a Democracy Is Tested.” (The less SEO-friently print headline is “A Nation Finds Itself on a Path Never Traveled.”)
The piece is, in its current form, not good. But though I’m just a precariously employed Substacker (subscribe for just $6/month or $60/year!), I do have both general editing experience and a fair amount of experience writing for the Times. So I thought I would provide, as a service to both my and the Times’ readers, an edit (or “playback” in Timesspeak). My edits are in bold.
Digital headline: A President Faces Prosecution, and a Democracy Is Tested
Digital summary: For more than two centuries, American presidents were effectively shielded from indictment. But the case against former President Donald J. Trump breaks that taboo and sets a new precedent.
By Peter Baker
For the first time in American history, a former president of the United States has been indicted on criminal charges. It is worth pausing to repeat that: An American president has been indicted for a crime for the first time in history.
[JMK: Hey Peter, I see what you’re going for here, but let’s rework this a bit. First of all, you say you’re