Such efforts are rooted in the paper’s journalism. Still, it’s a shift for an institution that shied away in the past from self-promotion — sometimes, its critics argued, to its detriment.
“Our decision to take a leading role in planning and hosting a debate grew out of our mission to cover the major issues and concerns facing voters and the country,” the paper’s executive editor, Dean Baquet, and its politics editor, Patrick Healy, wrote in a memo on Friday.
The paper is also considering taking part in additional events. “If 2020 Republican primary debates are held, we intend to look into helping plan one of those, as well as a general election debate next year,” Mr. Baquet and Mr. Healy wrote.
Mr. Healy said in an email that The Times approached the Democratic National Committee “as a way to understand the process for planning and presenting debates.” Soon afterward, the paper began discussing a joint editorial approach with CNN.
Sponsoring news organizations are responsible for the costs of each event, which can be significant. Along with renting a venue and paying a production crew, the sponsoring outlets oversee the construction of a set — usually festooned by massive and expensive LED screens — and the logistics of a live television production.
The Times acknowledged on Friday that its debate partnership with CNN includes “a financial component,” but declined to discuss specific terms.
CNN is the first television network to secure a repeat sponsorship of a 2020 debate. CBS News is aiming to hold an event closer to the Iowa caucuses early next year. Fox News requested a debate, but was turned down by the Democratic National Committee.
The mid-October event will be the first Democratic primary debate in Ohio since February 2008, when NBC News sponsored one between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama in Cleveland. A Republican contest in Cleveland in August 2015, featuring a voluble upstart named Donald J. Trump, retains the record for viewership of a primary debate, with 24 million watching on Fox News.