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Monday, December 26, 2005

Watch What We Don't Do, Not What We Don't Say

Jay Rosen, at PressThink, has a superb analysis piece on the NYTimes and the lack of transparency there regarding the publication of the NSA piece. Definitely worth a read and some serious thought. Jay describes Bill Keller as a "watch our pages man" rather than being an editor who is willing to devote page space or interview time to explaining what went wrong or any decisionmaking process to readers.

Here's my question: Why should I pay my hard-earned money for the newspaper, when Bill Keller doesn't think he owes me and all of his other readers more than a "too bad, we don't owe you anything but what we're in the mood to print at the moment?"

As Rosen writes, the question of transparency is one that the NYTimes has been schizophrenic about for quite a while.
Alex Jones, a former reporter for the Times, and a biographer of the ruling family, noticed it. “It’s as though there are two Times minds at work here,” he told Salon. The first is stoic, and hostile to “meta” communication, which in this view detracts from the primary work. Traditionally (that is to say up until the ground shifted beneath them a few years ago) the editors of the New York Times tried not to talk about the New York Times, or indeed to “notice” it, and you saw little in the way of self-examination. It just came out with more journalism.

In that era, the ideal answer to any question about faulty reporting or editorial priorities was: watch the paper. Don’t ask us to talk about it; we’ll just give you non-replies. In Ken Auletta’s recent New Yorker profile of Sulzberger, he quotes Keller at a November staff meeting saying he was concerned about “orgies of self-absorption that distract us from our more important work.” That being open about decision-making counts as newsroom narcissism is also part of the stoic view.
Like I said, the Rosen piece is a must read. I'd hope for some self-examination by the Times editorial staff, but I refuse to contemplate anything that would result in orgies of any kind between Keller and Sulzberger. That's just wrong.

(Photo credit to frumoaznicul)

UPDATE: HAHAHAHA Go read TBogg. Just go do it. You'll thank me later.