'Locked in battle': Times and Post in an epic race for the truth

Are journalists getting 'tone' of Trump coverage right?
Are journalists getting 'tone' of Trump coverage right?

The Washington Post dropped a bombshell just after 5 p.m. Monday: President Trump had shared highly classified information with the Russians.

In another era, a scoop like that would have dominated the news cycle for a week or more.

But barely 24 hours later, The New York Times fired off an explosive story of its own: The FBI director had documented an attempt by the president to end an FBI investigation into his national security adviser. The Times sent two cellphone news alerts.

The Trump era has revived the rivalry between two of the country's premier newspapers.

As the administration lurches from one crisis to another, the Times and the Post keep one-upping each other.

Or as Adam Goldman, a Times reporter who previously worked for the Post, put it in a tweet on Tuesday night: The two papers are "locked in battle. And every day First Amendment gets stronger & people get real news that matters."

There's been more than enough real news to share.

When Trump's 1995 tax return surfaced late in the presidential campaign, it showed up in the mailbox of a Times reporter. National Security Adviser Michael Flynn was forced to resign after the Post broke news that the acting attorney general had warned he was vulnerable to Russian blackmail.

The two papers may not be engaged in cutthroat competition, but it's something a little edgier than friendship.

After it passed the Times in web traffic in 2015, the Post unveiled a banner ad proclaiming itself "America's new publication of record" -- a jab at a status long claimed by the Times.

And when the Post rolled out a new slogan this year, "Democracy Dies in Darkness," Times executive editor Dean Baquet joked: "I love our competition with the Washington Post. I think it's great. But I think their slogan -- Marty Baron, please forgive me for saying this -- sounds like the next Batman movie."

He was addressing the editor of the Post, who told CNN's Brian Stelter: "No apology necessary from the people of Gotham."

Today, both news organizations are flourishing in an age that was supposed to be the death of the traditional newspaper.

The Times has added hundreds of thousands of new digital subscribers since the election. And the Post said last year that it was a "profitable and growing company."

Related: New York Times touts subscriber growth with a jab at Trump

It's a race for scoops and eyeballs -- and maybe a race with two winners. After the Times broke the news about FBI Director James Comey's memos Tuesday, the Post retweeted the story.

"The battle between the @nytimes and @washingtonpost these days is the best kind of newspaper war," tweeted Nicholas Kristof, the Times columnist. "Makes me proud to be a journalist. Bravo!"

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