The developing story in Iran (and how the media has been covering it) has been a popular topic of conversation around here over the last few days. And one thing has not gone unnoticed: New York Times Executive Editor Bill Keller’s presence on the front lines and the front page of his own paper — as a reporter.
At first, we thought Keller’s trip overseas was pretty well-timed, corresponding as it did to his appearance on the “Daily Show” and his digs on the Huffington Post and Drudge Report for not having Baghdad bureaus. But Keller has been doing some intense work over there, writing a “Memo From Tehran” about reactions in the streets after the election and co-bylining a story about Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. It’s not often that a top editor from a huge paper like the Times can get out from behind his desk and get his hands dirty reporting from the trenches and the Times has said that Keller didn’t go to Iran expecting to write stories.
Today, Keller sent Editor & Publisher two hurried emails explaining his trip and why he “plunged in.”
“Briefly, I came to watch our reporters in action and to get a (first) taste of a big subject,” he said. “I try to get out in the field as often as I can, because nothing else gives you as good a sense of the complexities and texture of a story. I usually don’t write on these trips, but this story got so big, and the correspondents were so welcoming of an extra pair of hands, that I plunged in. It reminds me why I got into this business. (Also, no one here wants to talk about the future of the newspaper business.)”
So did Keller go to Iran with the intention of talking to someone about the future of the newspaper business? Perhaps that’s all anyone wants to talk to him about these days.
Sadly, Keller told E&P that his visa is up tomorrow so he’s heading home. “Some reporters have contemplated overstaying their visas, trying to work under the radar. Even if you manage to elude the authorities, though, you create real dangers for all the Iranians you would need to hide you, translate for you, get you around and help you get the story out,” he said.