Saturday, February 12, 2005

Public editor Okrent whines that FAIR isn't fair (and continues to embarrass himself and the Times)

What can you say about Daniel Okrent that he can't say at greater length in one of his colums. Yes, I'm recycling that joke. But he remains the favorite topic of his own "column." (As opposed to say, readers' concerns, readers' questions . . .)

If the Times had been smart, they'd have cut Okrent the moment he outed "George." We dealt with that back in December (thanks to Rob for staying on me to address that issue) and it's reprinted at The Third Estate Sunday Review if you missed it ("Daniel Okrent, Step Down").

And just last Sunday, The Third Estate Sunday Review weighed in on the embarrassment that is Okrent with their "Editorial: Danny Okrent -- Ready for his own sitcom or menace to society?" Read the editorial because it's got some strong points. (Disclosure, I gave some assistance with that editorial.)

Add that in with Bob Somerby's The Daily Howler which has long tracked the embarrassment that is Daniel Okrent and now Okrent wants to take on FAIR?

They've posted an e-mail they received from Okrent as well as Dave Lindorff's responses.
This has to do with the Lindorff's excellent article ("The Emperor's New Hump" which appeared in FAIR's magazine Extra!) about how the Times decided to spike the what's-under-Bush's-jacket story.

From a section of Lindorff's on-the-money response:

I found it interesting that Okrent chose to use the words "distortion" and "falsehood" to describe my charges. As he put it: "It is a distortion of the truth to say that [the killed story] 'exposed' anything, and an outright falsehood to say that it indicated Mr. Bush 'probably cheated during the presidential debates.'"
In fact, the article and accompanying photos (which Okrent fails to mention) did very clearly "expose" the president's lie, and given the strong likelihood that the device seen on his back was part of a cueing device, it is hardly a falsehood to say that the article indicated that he "probably" cheated in the debates.
Apparently it is easy for Okrent and the Times to accuse critics of being liars, but not a president running for re-election.

Read it in full because it's rare to see someone so accurately refute the increasingly useless Daniel Okrent.

Note Okrent's reponse as well and especially this statement at the end of his e-mail:

N.B. Any opinions expressed here, unless otherwise attributed, are solely my own.

Well, Okrent, here's an opinion that's solely my own. You're not supposed to be a p.r. flack for the paper.

Exactly why are you contacting FAIR to begin with? Do you feel you were misquoted? If so, you don't mention that. You do go into a superficial history of a story that the Times didn't run and you do cast aspertions on Lindorff's writing.

But exactly why are you, the public editor of the New York Times -- the readers' representative, writing FAIR to complain about an article in an e-mail you want them to post?
How much time do you have on your hands by not addressing the concerns of readers? It must be a lot if you've got time to dash off an e-mail to FAIR about how you think the Times was treated poorly.

If you're doing that everytime a magazine or paper reports on the many problems of the New York Times, no wonder you don't have time to address the issues you were hired to do. I'm surprised that you didn't call Lindorff a "coward" or compare him to Nazis, but then you save that special hate for readers who don't have a forum to defend themselves in.

As the Times moves to select Okrent's replacement (he's gone in a few more months), they owe it to their readers to ensure that the next public editor grasps that his or her space isn't all about his/her vacations, or what his/her friends did -- that the space exists to address the concerns and questions of readers. Whether it's launching a pre-emptive strike on the Tony coverage or
his usual "what I wanted to write about" nonsense, Okrent's shown no concern or respect for the readers. He's become a cheap laugh (as The Third Estate Sunday Review properly noted); however, with this e-mail to FAIR, he becomes a cheap, old laugh. The Times really ought to intervene.