Sunday, February 15, 2004


I definitely give Okrent mixed reviews on his job so far, but he does let us know just how twisted the culture of arrogance is at the New York Times.

. So tell me, Dan. How are they treating you at The Times?

A. I'm glad you asked. It has been both better and worse than I expected - better because a lot of people here believe that The Times should be as open to examination as those The Times itself examines each day; their welcome has been generous and heartening. What's worse than I expected is the overt hostility from some of those who don't want me here.

Q. Is it aimed at you, or at the job?

A. Both. One reporter ripped me up and down about how offensive it was that the staff had to endure public second-guessing, how it makes reporters vulnerable to further attack, how the hovering presence of an ombudsman can hinder aggressive reporting. When I objected - "I don't think your complaint's with me; I didn't invent this job" - the reporter hissed, "You accepted it!"

Others have complained that as a former magazine writer and editor, I don't know anything about newspapers; as a non-Timesman, I don't appreciate how The Times is different from all other media institutions; or as an idiot, I don't know anything about anything. They may well be right. But all those deficiencies may enable me to ask the stupid questions no insider ever would.

Then there are the people in between, who say that I'm doing a good job and taking the right positions - except on those subjects in which they're involved. Fair enough; in this regard, they're just like a lot of the people The Times writes about.