NYT set to torpedo public editor

posted at 11:13 am on January 3, 2007 by Allahpundit

I question the timing. Not the Times’s timing, but Byron Calame’s:

The New York Times will soon decide whether it will do away with its public editor…

“Over the next couple of months, as Barney’s term enters the home stretch, I’ll be taking soundings from the staff, talking it over with the masthead, and consulting with Arthur,” meaning publisher Arthur O. Sulzberger Jr., wrote Bill Keller, The Times’ executive editor, in an e-mail to The Observer…

When reached by phone on Dec. 29, Mr. Calame said he had heard the news. His assistant, Joseph Plambeck, had attended an in-house Q&A on Dec. 15, at which Mr. Keller expressed the idea.

Except for his column a few weeks back reversing course on the Times’s SWIFT expose, Calame hadn’t done much boat-rocking. He’s mocked for it in the Observer piece, in fact; the author compares him to Barney, “the friendly purple dinosaur.” But all that changed on December 31, when he fact-checked the Sunday Magazine’s cover story on abortion in El Salvador into oblivion. Sample quote:

At my request, a stringer for The Times in El Salvador walked into the court building without making any prior arrangements a few days ago, and minutes later had an official copy of the court ruling. It proved to be the same document as the one disseminated by LifeSiteNews.com, which had been translated into English in early December by a translator retained by The Times Magazine’s editors. I’ve since had the stringer review the translation of key paragraphs for me.

Did Keller’s hint two weeks earlier about the axe falling set him off? They have “a really bad relationship” according to one source quoted by the Observer, so if Calame takes this as a challenge and uses the four months he has left to go after the Times, he could not only put the screws to Keller but make it hard for him to terminate the position. It’s easy to phase out a job staffed by Barney the purple dinosaur, not so easy to phase out a job known for generating incisive criticism. Why, that would smack of dissent-crushing. What would George Washington say?

All in all, though, I don’t much care. The boss is unhappy, and I agree — it’s nice to have someone critiquing the Times from within, with a pipeline to their audience. But the more media moves away from print and towards the web, the more the Times will end up sharing (virtual) space with its critics, whether it wants to or not. If they cancel Calame, all they’re doing is buying time.


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Rearranging the deck chairs on the journalistic Titanic. Or just getting rid of them altogether.

JammieWearingFool on January 3, 2007 at 11:28 AM

If they cancel Calame, all they’re doing is buying time.

And more baldly and more desperately showing their true colors. For those paying attention.

Anwyn on January 3, 2007 at 11:31 AM

If they cancel Calame, all they’re doing is buying time.

I disagree with you here. I think they’re dumping gas on themselves. Any serious reader can see that they’re misreporting that story, and killing the guy who from within their own ranks grumbled about it.

That just adds yet more fuel to the fire that’s burning their readership down. I expect it will only make their free fall faster.

One Angry Christian on January 3, 2007 at 11:32 AM

The NY Times will be engaging in self-destructive bahavior if Keller fires the “Public Editor.” People can cite to that firing as evidence that the NY Times reporting cannot withstand scrutiny from even so normally passive a reviewing editor as Byron Calame. So I hope that Keller does fire the “Public Editor.” The NY Times has degenerated into a menace.

Phil Byler on January 3, 2007 at 11:42 AM

The New York Times, March 29, 2006:

For months now, people have been urging President Bush to shake up his inner circle and bring in fresh air. Perhaps in response, the White House chief of staff, Andrew Card Jr., resigned yesterday. Mr. Bush opened the window — and in climbed his budget director, Joshua Bolten, who used to be Mr. Card’s deputy.

If this is what passes for a shake-up in this administration, the next two and a half years are going to be grim indeed. This is a meaningless change, and it simply sends the message that Mr. Bush lacks the gumption to trade in anyone in the comforting, friendly cast of characters who have kept him cocooned since his first inauguration.

Perhaps the editorial staff would like to turn their poison pen on their own boss?

Slublog on January 3, 2007 at 12:10 PM

Slublog, whom did they have in mind? Keith Olbermann or Chris Matthews?

The NYT is really very, very sensitive…kind of a liberal trait…

Entelechy on January 3, 2007 at 6:30 PM

Bill Keller, Imperial Editor.

MayBee on January 3, 2007 at 8:18 PM

But the more media moves away from print and towards the web, the more the Times will end up sharing (virtual) space with its critics, whether it wants to or not. If they cancel Calame, all they’re doing is buying time

.
They’ll also give their critics on the web a fresh occasion for critique.

Kralizec on January 4, 2007 at 3:52 AM

Does anyone know if this is the same guy who appears in “Wordplay?”

honora on January 4, 2007 at 1:01 PM