Bill Keller Responds to The New York Times’ Nick Bilton over Anti-Twitter Debate

When we covered Bill Keller’s anti-Twitter column yesterday, we should have known it wasn’t over yet. It might seem like Keller, with his anti-aggregation, anti-Facebook, anti-Twitter rants is coming across as a bit of a dinosaur, but nothing is further proof of his relevance than the fact that everyone in the world has something to say about them. We are now officially covering this story for a second time.

But it was one thing for new media to criticize Keller (which it did). Now Keller has to respond to his own staff. Nick Bilton, lead technology writer for the Times’ own Bits Blog, posted the following critique Wednesday afternoon:

Twitter, which Mr. Keller says he believes could make us “stupid,” has become an irreplaceable part of my daily life; it augments how I report stories, socialize with friends and share and consume everything from store coupons to breaking news.

Overall, he did not dismiss Keller’s theories, however:

But I believe “excess” is the key word here. Used as a crutch for our relationships and memories, these tools and technologies could indeed spawn a flawed generation of people peering into their phones without regard for the world around them.

Keller issued a response, also posted on the Bits Blog. It struck us as more critical of Nick Bilton than Bilton was critical of him:

First, I wish you had made clear (as the Twitter torrent mostly does not) that I praise Twitter and Facebook rather effusively…

Second, my point is not that Twitter makes us stupid…

The scary part is how fierce and faith-based some of the reaction has been. I mean, lighten up. This isn’t your religion we’re talking about. Or is it?

And then this curious backhanded compliment:

As for replacing my phone with something that rings inside my cerebral cortex — well, you’ll make a better cyborg than I will.

Make what you will of that. Other tech journalists (on Twitter, unsurprisingly) were not so impressed. Tim Carmody tweeted: “Don’t think @NYTKeller realizes that as NYT editor, calling people stupid, making jokes about firing reporters, etc., comes off as bullying.”