So! Bill Keller has a new piece for the New York Times Magazine. He writes, “I don’t intend this occasional essay to become the Editor’s Pulpit,” which got us excited, naturally, because it meant that that was exactly what he was about to do. And when Keller goes in to Editor’s Pulpit mode, it generally means he is going to take on his nemesis du jour, the Huffington Post. Fun all around.
Keller’s actual subjects are the worthy issues of journalistic openness and transparency, and he begins by comparing James O’Keefe and Julian Assange. (As a side note, his comparison reminds us a lot of a post we read a few weeks ago for The Atlantic Wire by Erik Hayden.)
[V]iolated the first rule of blogging, and failed to link to the argument he was engaging. So when he talked about “the reaction” to his column, or “clueless commentary”, the lack of any link was a CYA move, giving him the opportunity to say “oh no, I didn’t mean you“.
In this latest piece, Keller fails to link again. He writes:
[J]ust as doctors and lawyers, teachers and military officers, judges and the police are expected to set aside their own politics in the performance of their duties, so are our employees. This does not mean — as one writer recently scoffed — that we “poll people at both extremes of any issue, then paint a line down the middle and point to it as reality.”
Keller does not link to the scoffer — though he puts the words in quotes so anyone can Google to see who said that comment. It turns out it was none other than Peter Goodman, formerly of the Times and current business and technology editor at HuffPost, in a HuffPost essay called “Beyond Left And Right: It’s About Reality.” Oooh!
Oddly, Goodman’s essay was a general article, and not intended as a slight to the Times in any way. Goodman himself told the blog nytpicker:
I greatly respect Bill and I still love the Times, and I’m not sure why he construed my sentence as a “scoff.” I don’t get why he apparently took it as being about the Times, when I was speaking much more generally about a troubling default mode in contemporary journalism.
So why is Keller so sensitive to HuffPost? What is the point of this feud? Sure, his using the Times’ Magazine as an Editor’s Pulpit (read: detractor of all things Arianna Huffington) is amusing, but his attacks seem increasingly unwarranted. And if the state of integrity in journalism is indeed in something of a crisis, Keller’s opinion pieces don’t seem to be doing the Times‘ any favors.