Monday, October 10, 2005
Lashing out at everyone: New York Times executive editor Bill Keller opened his mouth and again cut into the little remaining journalistic integrity his paper still possesses.
At a conference in Phoenix, Keller lashed out at bloggers, Bill O'Reilly, Rush Limbaugh, The Wall Street Journal and anyone else who annoys him while laughably lauding his own work.
Keller pointed out that it cost the Times around $1.5 million to maintain a Baghdad bureau in 2004. (It cost one Times freelancer much more last month: He was murdered.) "This kind of civic labor can't be replaced by bloggers." The Times' assets: "A worldwide network of trained, skilled [observers] to witness events" and write about them, and "a rigorous set of standards. A journalism of verification," rather than of "assertion," and maintaining an "agnosticism" as to where any story may lead. And, borrowing a key buzzword of the day, he said the Times practiced "transparency," or, in math-teacher terms, "we show our work."
Keller made repeated references to the extreme partisan nature of current discourse, and cited voices that he said urged the Times to "give it up. Embrace your biases," and write about them "openly." To this, he said "I object. It's like saying since genetics account for so much, we should abandon being parents." Still, he conceded that "a lot of people want journalism that thrills them by telling them what they believe."
Bloggers aren't going to replace journalists. Except for a very few -- and I'm not one of them -- you can't live on income from blogging. What blogging can do, however is act as a check on journalists.
Keller's genetics analogy is lame. We don't want journalists to stop "reproducing" because they're biased. We want to look at what they produce, but we're better informed and more skeptical if we know where the author is coming from. If you're going to enroll your kid in school, we want the parents to show up and sign him in.
I'd prefer journalism that told the plain and simple truth. I think I'm one of the few people who got into journalism because I enjoyed writing -- not because I was on some mission to make the world a better place. I want all sides of the story and I want the truth.