From inside The Times: Okrent emails

From inside The Times: Okrent emails

: I got email from New York Times public editor Dan Okrent thanking me for my blog support after the Wall Street Journal portrayed him as Lassie amid the Kujos. But he wanted to let me — thus, you — know that life at The Times is better than that.

“Things here really aren’t so bad,” he said. “As you may have noticed, nearly all the examples cited in the Journal piece, while entirely accurate, occurred many months ago…”

I don’t mean to suggest the job isn’t hard, or that there aren’t people here who are impossibly difficult to deal with. Sure, when I criticize people in print they get pissed. Some can even get a little mean. But most — even the ones who get angry — acknowledge that I’ve got a job to do and am trying mightily to do it fairly.

The good news is that the most recent exchange with Executive Editor Bill Keller over Okrent’s column on the Tony Hendra story was less about pissiness — as the Journal would have us believe — than about substance; it was, in fact, fruitful:

We disagreed strenuously but respectfully. And his point about a campaign was exactly yours — the experience with me, he was saying, gave him a sense of what subjects of Times stories must feel like at times.

Well, bravo. If The Times learns that crucial lesson, then whatever growling and snapping Okrent must endure is worth it.

I’m going to a meeting of journalistic honchos this weekend and I’m supposed to talk about technology and the newsroom. But the real moral to the story is that what technology has brought to us is a culture of transparency. We bloggers demand transparency. Open-source advocates demand transparency. Consumers demand transparency. Hell, journalists have always demanded transparency of the politicians and business leaders and celebrities they covered. Now it’s time for journalism to pull back the shades. And that is what Okrent is trying to teach the Timesmen to do.

They are old dogs. We’ll see whether they can learn new tricks.

: Perhaps I should have emailed Dan when I posted my reaction to the Journal story to ask, “Is it really that bad?” But I didn’t. I got the free link from the Journal at midnight and rushed to beat the blogrush and get it up first. I almost speculated in my post that perhaps the Journal was engaging in a little schadenfreude, that they were looking to snipe at rival Timesmen. But I said to myself, no, surely they’d been careful to be balanced — and couldn’t find much balance. And, hey, it was a free link, so I didn’t look the gift horse in the mouth. Well, perspective matters in all stories.