Sunday, March 27, 2011

Bill Keller jumps the shark

Now the NYT editor seems to think that James O'Keefe and Julian Assange are sort of equivalent.

The real shame in all of this (Bill Keller and the NYT getting super defensive and obnoxious of late) is that there's a good amount of truth to their side of the arguments about the value of the Times and the importance of original reporting. Or at least I agree with them partly, rather. The Huffington Post does some great work, but its aggregation is taking away advertising money from organizations like the NYT that are more focused on producing original reporting, and that's at least somewhat not good. But Keller did a stunningly bad job of making this case.

Similarly, there's a decent argument that the NYT charging people for online content is fair or okay; the NYT itself is not doing a very good job of making that argument, instead being pompous and obnoxious.

I really want to be open minded, but Keller is just making it harder and harder for me to believe he's something other than a close-minded jerk. He runs a newspaper that does a lot of really impressive work, but he digs in when critiqued, and rarely admits fault.

The use of the word 'torture' is a good example. It's been thoroughly documented that the Times (and many others) used the word 'torture' in previous decades to describe waterboarding committed by other governments, and still use the word 'torture' in reference to other governments. But they will not use it when waterboarding is performed by the US government, because it's "controversial." Under criticism, Keller simply dug himself in deeper.

The ACORN case is another example; the paper played a major role in propagating the lie that O'Keefe was dressed as a pimp, among other falsehoods. Under relentless criticism, the paper continued to write the same errors, only backing away from some of them after weeks or months. Some of the errors were corrected; others remain uncorrected to this day.

In his column in today's magazine, Keller tries to show off how much the Times loves detail and getting it right, citing a few examples of recent corrections. He presumably doesn't get that the Times' refusal to correct many errors is actually the bigger current theme.

Update 3/28: Turns out Keller used a quote very out of context in his Sunday magazine column. See nytpicker.


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