Barney Reveals His Methods
What's more interesting than the Sam Tanenhaus's rather humdrum responses is what this reveals of Barney's working methods. Apparently he dashes off emails posing limp questions, and waits around patiently until the Times editors figure out just the right response. Pretty much the opposite of what journalists do when they want spontaneous and frank, as opposed to rehearsed and choreographed, responses.
In this case, Barney emailed Tanenhaus schoolboy-like queries such as "What are the three main qualities you want in a reviewer?" and "What are the three main reasons books get a 'skip' memo [meaning they haven't been selected for review]?"
By giving editors written queries, Barney provides Times editors with plenty of time to mull over responses that properly convey the party line -- just as you would expect from, say, the editor of an internal newsletter. Or, in this case, a public editor who functions as a managemeent p.r. man.