The Electric Commentary

Monday, May 23, 2005

Dan Okrent Signs Off.

Dan finished his stint as the NYT Public Editor (or Ombudsman, as it were). He leaves with this zinger:

2. Op-Ed columnist Paul Krugman has the disturbing habit of shaping, slicing and selectively citing numbers in a fashion that pleases his acolytes but leaves him open to substantive assaults. Maureen Dowd was still writing that Alberto R. Gonzales "called the Geneva Conventions 'quaint' " nearly two months after a correction in the news pages noted that Gonzales had specifically applied the term to Geneva provisions about commissary privileges, athletic uniforms and scientific instruments. Before his retirement in January, William Safire vexed me with his chronic assertion of clear links between Al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein, based on evidence only he seemed to possess.

No one deserves the personal vituperation that regularly comes Dowd's way, and some of Krugman's enemies are every bit as ideological (and consequently unfair) as he is. But that doesn't mean that their boss, publisher Arthur O. Sulzberger Jr., shouldn't hold his columnists to higher standards.

I didn't give Krugman, Dowd or Safire the chance to respond before writing the last two paragraphs. I decided to impersonate an opinion columnist.

3 Comments:

  • If Okrent was going to attack Krugman like that, shouldn't he have provided an example of a time that Krugman twisted the numbers?

    By Blogger MDS, at 12:47 PM  

  • Probably so. He is making an opinion writer's mistake of assuming that there are a few facts on which the audience will be sympathetic and therefor explanation is not necessary. But he does cover himself a bit with the last line.

    It's also worth noting, I think, that Safire was included by Okrent (in my opinion) specifically for balance, which I find a bit odd as Okrent was a big believer in bias. It's funny that he went out of his way to include a conservative.

    But he should have mentioned at least one thing to support his claim (or even better, linked to it).

    By Blogger PaulNoonan, at 1:22 PM  

  • Okrent wrote a great article on or around Halloween 2004 about how "experts" don't necessarily make for balanced pieces, and how we shouldn't have objective reporters but subjective reporters who know their beat well and look at all the facts.

    I thought it was a fucking brilliant piece of journalism and rational thought. If anyone's got access to Nexis or the Times archive, I suggest taking a gander.

    By Blogger Ace Cowboy, at 4:29 PM  

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