The transparency that matters

I had to read Byron Calame’s public editor column a few times to get the point, which is: Times Executive Editor Bill Keller had implied that he’d delayed the NSA phone story after the last presidential election, but now it turns out that he’d delayed it before the election. But he never saw fit to tell the public that.

Now I bear the brunt of dismissal or ridicule for my harping on the ethic of transparency and journalism today. ‘What,’ some sneer, ‘should I have to reveal my shoe size?’ No, I say, this isn’t about jouranlists’ lives as if on reality shows. This is about a culture of transparency that has yet to sweep newsrooms.

The transparency that counts is telling the public anything they should possibly need or want to know about your coverage. And not telling them that you’d delayed what you keep insisting is a blockbuster story about the presidential incumbent before a presidential election qualifies, I’d say, as the kind of thing the public should know.

Keller tries to dismiss this as “old business” and “inelegant wording” but one can’t help but find that disingenuous and unsatisfying. In a culture of transparency, an editor would feel compelled and eager to level with the public and be as clear and forthcoming as possible. I don’t see that.

: Here‘s Eat the Press on the revelation revelation. Here‘s CaptainsQuarters.