Consensus among the hardworking staff: New York Times executive editor Bill Keller, who’s apparently suffering from Mort Zuckerman Syndrome (pat. pending), should not be writing for his own paper.
Or any other, for that matter.
The new, attitudinal Keller emerged in his 8000-word smackdown of Julian Assange in January, which fairly oozed contempt for the WikiLeaks founder. Then last week he blowtorched Fox News in an audience Q&A at CUNY’s Graduate School of Journalism (via Yahoo News):
Thoughts on Fox News?
“I think if you’re a regular viewer of Fox News, you’re among the most cynical people on planet Earth,” Keller snarled. “I cannot think of a more cynical slogan than ‘Fair and Balanced’ “
That led newswatchers like Mediaite to ask:
Did Bill Keller Compromise NY Times Coverage Of Fox News By Criticizing Fox News?
From Howie Kurtz’s Daily Beast interview with Keller:
I emailed Keller to ask whether those strong words could suggest a biased approach to Fox, which has had more than its share of complaints about the Times’ coverage (and that of other news organizations as well).
“First of all,” he responded, “the question of whether Times reporters can write fairly about Fox is answered by the fact they do it, over and over. Tim Arango, Dave Carr, and Brian Stelter have set the standard for fair, tough, incisive coverage of Fox, its business, and its on-air personalities.
“As far as I can tell, they are professionally indifferent to that fact that Fox maintains a stable of commentators who make a good living bashing the Times.”
Too bad the rest of the sentient world is not indifferent to what Keller says.
Especially Arianna Huffington, who gets bashed in Keller’s column this Sunday, headlined “All the Aggregation That’s Fit to Aggregate.”
Big wet kiss to himself lede:
According to the list makers at Forbes, I am the 50th most powerful person in the world — not as powerful as the Pope (No. 5) but more powerful than the president of the United Arab Emirates (56). Vanity Fair, another arbiter of what matters, ranked me the 26th most influential person in the country. The New York Observer, narrowing the universe to New York, put me 15th on its latest “Power 150,” a list that stretches from Michael Bloomberg to Lady Gaga. New York magazine asked Woody Allen to name the single most important person in our city; he named — aw, shucks — me.
If that’s not toe-curling enough (to borrow a phrase from a former colleague), Keller later says this:
Of course I care deeply about The Future of Journalism, and I know the upheavals in our business matter a great deal. But the orgy of self-reference is so indiscriminate, so trivializing.
And then, in his own orgy of self-reference, Keller says this:
[W]e have bestowed our highest honor — market valuation — not on those who labor over the making of original journalism but on aggregation.
“Aggregation” can mean smart people sharing their reading lists, plugging one another into the bounty of the information universe. It kind of describes what I do as an editor. But too often it amounts to taking words written by other people, packaging them on your own Web site and harvesting revenue that might otherwise be directed to the originators of the material. In Somalia this would be called piracy. In the mediasphere, it is a respected business model.
The queen of aggregation is, of course, Arianna Huffington, who has discovered that if you take celebrity gossip, adorable kitten videos, posts from unpaid bloggers and news reports from other publications, array them on your Web site and add a left-wing soundtrack, millions of people will come.
Not surprisingly, Huffington’s in a huff over Keller’s dopeslap. And she goes right through the looking glass in her response on the Huffington Post:
Bill Keller Accuses Me of “Aggregating” an Idea He Had Actually “Aggregated” From Me
Perhaps unsettled by the fact that, when combined, The Huffington Post and AOL News have over 70 percent more unique visitors than the New York Times, and that HuffPost/AOL News’ combined page views in January 2011 were double the page views of the Times (1.5 billion vs. 750 million), New York Times executive editor Bill Keller decided to unleash an exceptionally misinformed attack on HuffPost in a column released today and slated for this weekend’s NYT Magazine.
After opening his piece by patting himself on the back so hard I’d be surprised if he didn’t crack a rib (it seems everyone — even Woody Allen and those folks on Twitter — thinks he’s super “powerful” and “influential”!), Keller turned to the putative subject of his column: “the ‘American Idol’-ization of news” and the evils of “aggregation.” Hearkening back to the glory years when Rupert Murdoch and his minions labeled sites that aggregate the news “parasites,” “content kleptomaniacs,” “vampires,” and “tech tapeworms in the intestines of the Internet” (the news industry equivalent of “your mama wears army boots!” although, not quite as persuasive), Keller says of aggregation: “In Somalia this would be called piracy. In the mediasphere, it is a respected business model.”
The slapfight over who aggregated whose aggregation proceeds from there, but the hardworking staff is not on this earth long enough to unravel it for you.
Go nuts yourselves, though.
Meanwhile, memo to Bill:
Maybe you should let the paper do the talking for you.