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At Athens Democracy Forum, NYT chief explores failing trust in politics, media

NYT CEO Mark Thompson (l) and Kathimerini Executive Editor Alexis Papachelas (r) held a discussion on political language at the Stavros Niarchos Cultural Center on Friday.

TAGS: Athens Democracy Forum, Politics, Media

In a discussion with Kathimerini’s executive editor Alexis Papachelas on the third day of this year’s Athens Democracy Forum on Friday, the president and CEO of The New York Times, Mark Thompson, explored the challenges posed by failing public trust in politicians and the media.

In the discussion, which took place at the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center, Thompson spoke extensively about the “lost art of listening” and invoked Aristotle’s art of rhetoric.

“The great institution that was created in this city was precisely the idea you have to listen to ideas you think are repellent and wrong,” he said. The impulse to censor, he said, is “profoundly dangerous.”

The problem with political discourse today, he said, is “that people speak without listening.” When citizens feel the political elite is not listening, “they find someone who will listen,” he said. That is how populism came about, he explained, describing Brexit as “the worst public policy decision in Britain in the past three or four centuries.”

As regards US President Donald Trump, Thompson said he did not believe he “has a specific agenda.” He said he believed the president, who has repeatedly criticized The New York Times’ coverage, is a reader of the newspaper’s print edition, judging by the timing of his postings on Twitter.

“This is the moment for journalism,” Thompson said, calling on reporters to have the courage to explain what is going on in the world. “The means of production have never been better, you have everything you need for good multimedia content on your smartphone. Start doing it!” he said.

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