Sunday, May 07, 2006

Calame Slays a Red Herring

The Empty Suit, New York Times spokesman a/k/a "public editor" Barney Calame, was in fine form today -- as is the Times, needless to say. Great paper. No problems there. Terrific reporters coming up with great ideas. Calame so proclaims, in the latest of a series of advertorials by this train wreck of a newspaper ombudsman.

Today's advertorial, entitled "That First Inkling: The Origin of Enterprise Stories." is vintage Calame. No critical analysis and above all nothing of the slightest interest to Times readers. Just relentless happy-talk of the kind usually found in a morale-boosting employee newsletter That's our Barney!

The Barney column today describes how reporters come up with most ideas for enterprise stories and, doggone it, everything is just fine. Bias? Ain't happening. Figment of your imagination.

The complaints of some disgruntled readers imply that the process is to blame when they think an article shouldn't have run or view its concept as inherently biased. They often suspect that the process was contaminated by the influence of some powerful special interest or the political leanings of a top editor.

That, of course, isn't what "disgruntled readers" are saying. I haven't heard anyone complain about "process." "Process" is purely Calame's obsession. I, for example, believe that the bias at the Times is institutional, a part of the fabric of the paper that is shared by reporters and editors alike, particularly on the Foreign Desk and among the foreign correspondent corps.

For example, it would be absurd to suggest that somebody has to tell Hassan Fattah to sucker up to Islamists, or screw up a big story about Abu Gharib. Oh no. He does that all by himself. Enterprise!

Calame, however, doesn't like dealing with actual instances of bias. That, after all, would deter him from his primary task, which is to shill for management. So instead he raises the red herring that bias is somehow imposed by fiat from above.

Having raised that red herring, Calame proceeds to slaughter it by describing how ducky the process is. His conclusion: "Over all, The Times seems to have a fairly robust, ground-level-up idea-generation process that can, and does, yield added value for readers."

Which is Calame's way of saying, "No matter how bad the bias I am going to ignore it or excuse it. So can you please leave me alone while I go back to sleep on the divan!"


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