Friday, July 08, 2005

The Miracle Continues!

Calame: His Master's Voice

In the continuing saga of the Miracle on 43rd Street -- the "poaching" that was really just industry and staggering coincidence on the part of an outstanding New York Times reporter named Ken Belson -- I have the following to report:


"Public Editor" Barney Calame has responded to say that he has nothing further to say -- and also that he was not just relaying the wisdom of Times editors, but was setting forth "my response as public editor." (In other words, he was not writing me as, say, a trombone player or tuna fish sandwich.) Will he respond further? "You have my response."

The Mighty Oz has spoken!

Now, children, what do we learn from this? Well, we learn that Barney here, fine career that he has, is at bottom a bureaucrat-- loyal to the bone to his employer. Isn't that wonderful? No, it sucks, when the employer is the New York Times and you are supposed to represent the public, not the organization. Thus I suspect that as time goes on, one may see that controversies large and small are going to be handled by Calame roughly the way he handled this one: By acting as an extension of the Times bureaucracy.

You have to figure that he was hired for the purpose of calming the waters, not stirring things up, and to not exacerbate further (as his predecessor Dan Okrent surely did) the Times's legendary morale problem.

Good organization man that he is, he will know what to do (or, to put it more precisely, what not to do). When it comes to, say, the morale of the Times Middle Eastern bureaus and the stupid people complaining about its Iraq and Israel coverage, see if you can guess what side he is going to be on, regardless of his personal feelings.

So the moral of the story is to not expect to much from this guy -- except a good dose of the usual Timesian pomposity and arrogance, softball columns of the kind he has written so far, and a whole lot of belly laughs!

UPDATE: David M has, as usual, a thorough take on the thing. (A good example, by the way, of the kind of objective and fair journalism one used to get at the Times in bygone days.)