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By William Turvill, Press Gazette

Fake news. Failing. Discredited. Corrupt. An embarrassment to journalism. These are just a few of the words and phrases Donald Trump used to describe the New York Times during his four years in the White House.

So it is slightly surprising to hear that the now former president made an effort to get off on the right foot with Mark Thompson, who was chief executive of the New York Times from 2012 through to September last year.

Clearly, the relationship did not blossom. But despite Trump’s regular Twitter tirades against the Times, his presidential tenure coincided with a golden period for the Gray Lady. Between September 2016 and December 2020, the newsgroup’s digital subscriptions grew from 1.6m to 6.7m. 

Thompson, a former BBC director-general who left London for New York in 2012, admits that the Times was a major beneficiary of the so-called “Trump Bump”. 

But speaking to Press Gazette via Zoom from his house in Maine, Thompson tells how the NYT had spent the years before Trump’s unlikely victory building up its digital subscription offering. “And that meant that in 2016, when the election happened and Trump got elected, we were more ready than anyone else.”

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