Brisbane, New York

Arthur Brisbane, the fourth public editor of the New York Times, made his (always his, so far) debut on Sunday with this column:

Why I Would Do This

Why indeed?

I wanted the job for several reasons. First is that The Times matters. No other American news organization has the resources and the ambition to reach as deeply and as broadly on as many subjects as The Times does. The public editor deals with problems in the aftermath. It’s forensic, a kind of journalistic “CSI.”

Second, the next few years will be an inflection point for The Times. Newspaper-based organizations — ones like The Times that have created Web operations and other news products — will either weather the storm of transformation or tip into the deep. It will be a fateful time.

Finally, any journalist would find it hard to say no to the chance to practice the trade here.

Brisbane (bio here) practices the trade in the footsteps of the following:

1) Daniel Okrent

Give Okrent his due: It was no mean feat to establish the public editor position, which he had to do as its first practitioner. That said, Okrent was at times a bit of a showboat (just ask Maureen Dowd).

2) Barney Calame

Calame in the end barely lived up to the second syllable of his surname.  He seemed an indifferent public editor who rarely got his hands dirty, although his Geraldo Rivera coverage was . . . interesting.

3) Clark Hoyt

For the hardworking staff’s hard-earned money, Hoyt has been the best of the lot: serious, curious, and judicious.

Meanwhile, Brisbane is already drawing brickbats.

Let the wild rumpus begin.

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1 Response to Brisbane, New York

  1. Laurence Glavin says:

    What a coincidence; earlier this month, I re-read Sinclair Lewis’s “It Can’t Happen Here” (a fictional account of President of the United States other than FDR in the 1930’s-1940 period, decades before Philip Roth’s “The Plot Against America’, which I also read and I definitely will NOT re-read). In it, Lewis mixes fictional characters with real figures from that era, including an ancestor of today’s Arthur Brisbane, with the same name. Fun fact (and not to spoil any element of the plot for those considering reading the book (it’s ok, not great, with many prescient obiter dicta): he has a character, a woman it turns out, learn to fly an airplane, whereupon she guides it into another plane carrying the man who killed her husband! Can you imagine if Lewis changed the story slightly, having her fly a fully-loaded-with-gasoline aircraft into the Corpo headquarters building that was otherwise surrounded by security officers (called Minute Men in the novel)?

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