Sunday, September 25, 2005

Calame is a Four-Letter Word

New York Times spokesman (a/k/a "public editor") Barney Calame does a more convincing imitation than usual of a newspaper ombudsman today, as he says what was obvious to anybody who has reviewed the facts -- that Geraldo Rivera was screwed by the Times. (The paper falsely claimed he "nudged" a rescue crew in New Orleans, and then refused to run a correction.)

But to offset the sting of his rare, gentle criticism of the paper, Calame begins his item by taking a gratuitous, unecessary, and totally irrelevant swipe at Rivera: "One of the real tests of journalistic integrity is being fair to someone who might be best described by a four-letter word." The title of his column is also an unwarranted insult: "Even Geraldo Deserves a Fair Shake."

Well, I guess that is what you can expect from a management shill and Empty Suit. But really now. "Even Geraldo"? "Four-letter word"? The Empty Suit really doesn't like him. Here's why: He dared to complain publicly about being screwed by the Times.

You see, what Geraldo forgot was that the Times, and its parody of a newspaper ombudsman, expect to be treated with groveling and obsequiousness.

In fact -- and even Barney admits this is a bit much -- the Times executive editor Bill Keller admitted that Geraldo's vociferous reaction was why he was treated so poorly. "Mr. Keller's message unfortunately turns to a line of reasoning that raises, for me, a basic question of journalistic fairness," says Barney, clearly sweating bullets with each word as he states the obvious.

Only thing is that Barney himself, with his cheap-shot headline and unfairly insulting first paragraph, is precisely as unfair as Keller was in this instance. Geraldo isn't a "four-letter" word. The Times's arrogance, bias and unfairness are "four-letter words," and they have destroyed the reputation of what used to be a highly respected newspaper. To reverse that requires a newspaper ombudsman who is worthy of the title, not a management shill who insults a victim of the Times's well-known arrogance.

Calame is clearly reacting to widespread criticism of him by the National Review Online, Michele Malkin and other media blogs. The American Thinker, commenting on today's column, observes that "Shame Works." Something else might be even more effective, from both the standpoint of the readers and the Times' own flagging reputation: Dump Calame.

UPDATE: Good essay on the general uselessness of ombudspeople in Democracy Project.

Power Line, meanwhile, observes: "Calame unfortuntely mixes in additional personal abuse of Geraldo Rivera in documenting the Times's malfeasance -- illustrating why I prefer a simple acknowledgement of wrongoing when you're wrong. The Times is wrong. Why it can't say so is beyond me."

This is an arrogant paper, guy. End of story.

FURTHER UPDATE (9-28): Geraldo tells the New York Post that he won't sue for libel, but he is still -- justifiably -- "simmering about the tone of the ombudsman which, like the 'Editors' Note,' was grudging and disrespectful."

I'm surprised at that one blog I respect opined that the Empty Suit was "courageous" in stating the obvious, and doing so in such an abusive way. Since when does it take "courage" for a guy with an iron-clad contract to make abusive and insulting remarks -- about the enemy of one's employer?

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