Sunday, August 14, 2005

The Empty Suit Digs Deep

Barney's Divan Awaits Its Owner

New York Times spokesman Barney Calame (AKA "the public editor") rises from his divan today, and grapples yet another subject of complete indifference to Times readers. This trivia-loving parody of a newspaper ombudsman had to dig very hard to come up with this dilly. Brace yourself, friends: The Times uses freelancers!

Did you know that? Gee, I sure didn't. I could have sworn that Pableaux Johnson, author of the lead travel piece today on out-of-the-way sights in Siena, was the Times Siena Bureau Chief! Thank you, Empty Suit, for setting us straight on that. We readers really are dumb, aren't we?

So it went for an entire column today. While other issues infuriate readers, such as its improper probe into Judge John Roberts' adoptions--Calame shilled for management on that in his "web journal" yesterday--our Empty Suit gamely focuses on trivia. That is very much his job, which is to sit at a desk, blow off reader concerns, and fill his occasional columns and cobweb-covered web journal with padded dissertations on subjects nobody cares about.

As usual, our Times spokesman hews closely to the party line, with flackery such as "Monitoring and maintaining the paper's ethical and reporting standards among the growing and far-flung army of freelancers is a crucial and complex task." (Grand, isn't it? Sure makes up for the rampant bias and distortions elsewhere in the newspaper--you know, the stuff Barney is ignoring.)

Barney doesn't have much to say on the subject of freelancers. After all, it is not a real issue, just something to use to fill up empty space. That's his job -- to fill the space and occupy the position and do nothing to offend Times editors and reporters. Speaking of which, Barney isn't going to do anything to embarass any Times writers. He actually finds something interesting, which is that freelancers aren't acquainted with Times ethics rules, but he buries it down in his piece and, management shill that he is, withholds their names. Barney wraps up his softball piece by gently suggesting that the Times consider differentiating between freelancers and staffers.

Remember all the complaints that Times reporters used to have about Dan Okrent? That's not happening to Barney. He's an OK guy as far as the Times newsroom is concerned.

Back to the divan, Barney! Another nice job. Sleep well.

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