Friday, September 16, 2005

The Empty Suit Watch: Coddling Krugman

The Empty Suit, New York Times spokesman (a/k/a "public editor") Barney Calame wrote an item on his cobweb-covered web journal on Sept. 2 that gently chided Paul Krugman for a glaring error in one of his columns. It seemed as if, miracle of miracles, Calame was actually "representing readers" and not the Times management.

It seemed that way to me, when I read it at the time. But that just shows you the kind of great job Calame is doing. His job, of course, is to mislead the unwary into believing that he is the real thing, and not a shill for the Times management.

As Don Luskin points out in the National Review, Krugman has refused to publish a correction in the print edition fessing up to his goof, which concerned the recount of the 2000 elections. Instead he buried it in on the web.

What does Calame think of that sleazy evasion of responsibility? Luskin wrote Calame concerning Krugman's refusal to properly correct his error, and the response that came from the Empty Suit was this: “I intend to deal with them in the ways that I believe will best benefit the readers of The Times.”

Translation: "Go fly a kite." As he has done before when confronted with an egregious ethical violation by the Times staff, the Empty Suit functions as a do-nothing bureaucratic minion. He is so transparently phony that it really makes you wonder whether Calame is doing too good a job.

His predecessor, Dan Okrent, was lame and somnolent a good deal of the time. But he actually helped the Times' credibility by occasionally pointing out ethical lapses. Calame is so blatantly, unabashedly ineffective that it may well be that his hiring has backfired, and that he is doing the Times more harm than good.

UPDATE: The Empty Suit, reacting to having his nose rubbed in his own ineptness by Dan Luskin, followed up today. The Suit -- without crediting or mentioning Luskin's criticism -- weakly points out that Krugman was violating Times corrections policy. He concludes: "A bottom-line question: Does a corrections policy not enforced damage The Times's credibility more than having no policy at all?"

Golly, Barney, that's a good question! But gee, wouldn't a real "public editor" have an answer to that question? My answer to you is this: "Having a corrections policy that is not enforced does about as much damage to the Times's credibility as having a 'public editor' who is a parody of a newspaper ombudsman. LOTS of damage."

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