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Greg Linch § A leaky rocketship / 2014-11-04 18:05:52
Robin § A leaky rocketship / 2014-11-04 05:11:02
P. Renaud § A leaky rocketship / 2014-11-04 04:13:09
Jay H § Matching cuts / 2014-10-02 02:41:13

AmIOkrentOrNot.com
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I like what I’ve read of Dan Okrent, public editor of The New York Times.

I don’t like his picture.

I can’t really tell you why, he just looks worn-down, vaguely unhappy, insincere, trying too hard to look like a man of the people. I wonder if this is how everyone else sees Howard Dean?

Anyway, I know Robin disagrees with me, and I understand this post is worth nothing at all, but I’d felt I’d raise the point regardless, because the picture’s all up on the front page of NYT.c, harshing my buzz.

And while I’m bashing Dan Okrent (what else are ombudspeople for?), is it just me, or is he way self-obsessed and tortured about Dan Okrent and his role and his place in the universe? Every column’s filled with these asides, “Gentle reader, your concerns are half-right and half-wrong. It’s like this lesson I’ve learned from my mother, which I always kept in my head as I was editor of Time, ‘Dan,’ she once intoned, ‘you’re half-right and half-wrong.’ Do you see, Gentle Reader, how I am just like you? I am, in fact, one of you.” (Take this one, for example.) His latest column was an interview with himself. Dude, if you’re that hard up for the opportunity to navel-gaze, get a blog.

Oh, wait.

February 19, 2004 / Uncategorized

One comment

Robin says…

It’s so funny that you wrote this, because I was totally about to send Dan Okrent an e-mail to say how much I’ve been enjoying his columns.

But now I will simply defend the Ok-man against your feeble attacks in this influential public forum instead.

1. You are so wrong about Okrent’s web-pic, which clearly scores a full ten “cool, comforting uncle” points. It’s my favorite mug shot on the whole NYT site.

2. Okrent’s self-consciousness is, in fact, part of what makes him so good. We talk all the time about voice, about the virtue of writing as a real person with a point of view, right? That’s exactly what Okrent does.

His writing is so open. I wish every NYT reporter would do a self-interview every few months — with answers as clear and straightforward as the Ok-ster’s.

Let me change gears for a minute, and then bring it back around to Okrent.

Take a look at Steve Outing’s latest column over at Editor & Publisher. It’s headlined “When Journalists Blog, Editors Get Nervous,” and this graf gets to the heart of it:

A [New York] Times reporter wanting to write a personal blog on bee-keeping might be allowed to do it, but the paper’s policy is that even such an innocuous blog must be approved by newsroom management. The same goes for a family blog. A Times correspondent in Iraq might introduce topics or opinions on his family blog that if disseminated widely — always a possibility online — could call a reporter’s objectivity and credibility into question.

Here’s my question: Is it okay for a Times reporter to introduce those topics or opinions in an e-mail to his family? To his editor? How about a casual conversation with a colleague?

I’m asking that rhetorically, because I think the answer is, “Yes, of course.” Now, it’s possible (likely?) that I’ve got this all wrong. But if I’m right, then what’s making editors nervous is not the mere possession of ideas and opinions, but the public admission of them.

And I gotta say, that makes me a little uncomfortable.

After all, I want to get my news from journalists who are, in fact, fair-minded. Full disclosure of what’s on a reporter’s mind should only increase my confidence in her reporting, right? If that’s not the case — well, er, I’d like to know, so I can go read someone else’s work.

One part of this, I have to confess, is that I think people are better off, both personally and professionally, when they can be the same person at work, at home, in print, on their blog, and everywhere in between.

And my sense is that that’s how the best reporters already operate. If you gave William Langewiesche a blog and said “Write whatever you want! Whatever you want, Bill! Go nuts, man,” and checked back in a week, you’d find… a bunch of good reporting.

And again, even if you didn’t, you’d still have picked up some very valuable information. My impression of Langewiesche (The Atlantic Monthly‘s national correspondent) right now is that he is like the straightest, fairest reporter around. If that impression is wrong, I’d like to know.

Back to Dan Okrent to wrap this thing up: I think he’s a great model for modern journalists, because he’s up-front and introspective with his own ideas and inclinations.

Self-interviews all around!

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