Seth Mnookin: Journalists are lucky, Times staffers are smart, buy my book

Our favorite NYT/Red Sox expert with a fun-to-say last name is back with the paperback edition of his book, apparently with an exciting new subtitle. In anticipation of his appearance next week at the 92nd Street Y (though technically he will be speaking somewhere on West 67th), Seth Mnookin chatted with Neal Ungerleider of the 92nd St. Y blog and offered “media criticism a-go-go.” Accordingly, we went-went to the piece and took a few things away, chief among them the following:

  • Howell Raines ruled his fiefdom with an iron, dissent-squashing fist. This did a great disservice to the talented and brainy multitudes who worked under him, who were made to feel like so much lint — and to himself, because he failed to harness the potential aggregate brainpower of said multitudes, what Mnookin considers the Times’ “greatest asset.”
  • Ultimately, says Mnookin, this was both Raines’ greatest strength and greatest flaw: “The same qualities that helped make Raines’ leadership during 9/11 so brilliant helped doom him in the end.” (How? Why? I have to admit, that line makes me want to read the book. Thank goodness it’s in paperback.)
  • Mnookin credit/blames the NYT‘s post-Blair non-navel-gazing WMD coverage with Bill Keller’s determination to avoid excessive introspection. He seems to be a fan of how Daniel Okrent’s Public Editor column addressed the matter.
  • In the Amazon listing for “Hard News,” the phrase “Public Editor” is one of those helpfully labelled by Amazon as “statistically improbable.”
  • Book recommendations: Mnookin graciously credits the shoulders upon which he gratefully perched while doing his Hard time: The Trust by Alex Jones and Susan Tifft and The Kingdom and the Power by Gay Talese. “Tifft” is also fun to say.
  • Hard News is now required reading for J-school students! That’s a nice feather in Mnookin’s RedSox cap. What’s the takeaway lesson you’d impart to these brainy-multitudes-in-waiting, Professor Mnookin? “Buy the book and find out for yourself. That’s the lesson.” Wow. Thanks for sharin’, teach.
  • Interviewer Ungerleider’s take-away lesson: “I think the part that stuck in my mind the most was Seth’s emphasis on how Howell Raines misplayed office politics during his tenure at the NYT, and that fallout from management style was just as destructive as the scandals.” Ungerleider, you’re hired!
  • Don’t be dissin’ Philly or Vegas, yo.
  • “Mnookin” is funnest when said three times fast. Mnookin Mnookin Mnookin. See? “Ungerleider” is fun to say too. Mnookin! Ungerleider! Tifft! Dang, they should get me to teach J-school!*
  • Mnookin thinks that journalists are lucky, and clearly considers himself so. That, to me, is the takeaway lesson. Aw. Thanks Mnookie! I just made that up, but I think it’ll stick. If we’re lucky.

The Times, They Are A-Hardenin’ [TMFTML]

Mnookin book to add correction section
[Regret the Error]

*You laugh, but my teaching style is not too far from that of another great educator: “Nitwit!” “Oddment!” Blubber!” “Tweak!” Way more of you get that then you’d care to admit. Elizabeth, I’ll convert you yet.