The Timesmen really do not like their ombudsman
James Brander has a front-pager in today’s Wall Street Journal (subscription required should be their free article of the day*) chronicling how Daniel Okrent has fit in as the New York Times ombudsman. The answer would seem to be “poorly”: Daniel Okrent, a veteran magazine editor, has been the Times’s public editor for seven months. ...
James Brander has a front-pager in today's Wall Street Journal (subscription required should be their free article of the day*) chronicling how Daniel Okrent has fit in as the New York Times ombudsman. The answer would seem to be "poorly":
James Brander has a front-pager in today’s Wall Street Journal (
subscription required should be their free article of the day*) chronicling how Daniel Okrent has fit in as the New York Times ombudsman. The answer would seem to be “poorly”:
Daniel Okrent, a veteran magazine editor, has been the Times’s public editor for seven months. But instead of bringing calm, the experiment has created fresh tensions within the Times about such subjects as the paper’s coverage of weapons of mass destruction. Some editors complain Mr. Okrent’s questions are a nuisance, and also complain when he doesn’t seek them out for comment. One reporter encouraged colleagues to ask confrontational questions in a meeting between Mr. Okrent and business-section reporters. “Sometimes you have to treat others like the Russians — you have to demonstrate strength,” says the reporter, David Cay Johnston, a Pulitzer Prize winner. “I’m just waiting for him to screw up,” Mr. Okrent retorts in an interview. He hastens to say the comment was a joke and that he will avoid tackling any issue concerning Mr. Johnston. More recently, in an e-mail exchange, Times Executive Editor Bill Keller complained to Mr. Okrent about inquiries he was making for his column yesterday about a case of alleged child abuse. “i’ve got to say: man, you need a vacation,” Mr. Keller wrote. “It’s called reporting, right?” Mr. Okrent replied…. Mr. Okrent, 56 years old, says his first months at the Times were “very, very difficult.” The paper, he says, “has a very strong immune system, and I was a different kind of antigen…. If there had been three public editors before me, the body might have absorbed it a little bit better.”
It gets better:
The section in which Mr. Okrent’s columns appear, Sunday’s Week in Review, hasn’t been particularly hospitable either. In early April, Mr. Okrent asked the section’s editor, Katherine Roberts, for a response to reader queries about the difference between Week in Review articles and regular news pieces. Ms. Roberts says she initially ignored Mr. Okrent’s e-mails. When she did reply, Mr. Okrent thought the answer incomplete. Ms. Roberts says she felt Mr. Okrent could have found the answer by simply reading the section. “Did I drop the ball and not give him what he wanted?” she asks. “Yes.” She concedes her behavior was “somewhat churlish.” Ms. Roberts was also peeved over the length of the public editor’s column. Mr. Okrent now prefers to avoid dealing directly with Ms. Roberts, and communicates instead through one of the section’s deputies. Ms. Roberts says she accepts the public editor as a fact of daily life. “Now it’s here, and we live with it,” she says.
The article concludes with nice-sounding words from everyone involved about how the Times is adjusting. And then there’s the closing paragraph:
Mr. Okrent’s puncturing days will be over after his term ends. From the beginning, Mr. Okrent said he wasn’t planning on staying more than 18 months. When asked, he is able to pinpoint the exact time remaining on his contract. “It’s like a prisoner’s calendar,” says Mr. Okrent’s wife, Rebecca. “Crossing off the days.”
*I will be linking more frequently to the Journal from now on, because I finally have an online subscription. This comes courtesy of my genius brother. Thanks, JBD! UPDATE: Jeff Jarvis has more (link via Sullivan).
Daniel W. Drezner is a professor of international politics at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University and co-host of the Space the Nation podcast. Twitter: @dandrezner
More from Foreign Policy
Saudi-Iranian Détente Is a Wake-Up Call for America
The peace plan is a big deal—and it’s no accident that China brokered it.
The U.S.-Israel Relationship No Longer Makes Sense
If Israel and its supporters want the country to continue receiving U.S. largesse, they will need to come up with a new narrative.
Putin Is Trapped in the Sunk-Cost Fallacy of War
Moscow is grasping for meaning in a meaningless invasion.
How China’s Saudi-Iran Deal Can Serve U.S. Interests
And why there’s less to Beijing’s diplomatic breakthrough than meets the eye.
Xi and Putin Have the Most Consequential Undeclared Alliance in the World
Scoop: Turkey and Hungary Not Invited to Biden’s Big Democracy Summit
Netanyahu’s Legal Crusade Is Sparking a Military Backlash in Israel
Iraqi Kurdistan’s House of Cards Is Collapsing
A Coup Would Put Pakistan Squarely in China’s Bloc