Public Editor #1: The Collected Columns (with Reflections, Reconsiderations, and Even a Few Retractions) of the First Ombudsman of The New York Times

Public Editor #1: The Collected Columns (with Reflections, Reconsiderations, and Even a Few Retractions) of the First Ombudsman of The New York Times

by Daniel Okrent


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From December 2003 to May 2005, Daniel Okrent served as the New York Times' first "Public Editor," a position created following the newspaper's Jayson Blair scandal and the tumultuous reign and resignation of Howell Raines as Executive Editor. His mission: read the paper and provide his assessments, without guidance from the paper itself and without fear or favor, of how well it executed its responsibility to provide objective, accurate, and complete coverage of the world-at-large. Not an easy task, but the New York Times chose the right writer for the job. Experienced, wise and witty, opinionated but never shrill, he delivered. Okrent addressed subjects ranging from WMD coverage, reporter self-promotion, pulling for or piling on political candidates, and corrections policy, to the Tony Awards, to the great delight and consternation of the paper's readers, and those in its own newsroom. Now, collected, amended, and assessed by Okrent here are the complete columns of his rocky and illuminating eighteen months along with an evaluation of the entire experience; its ups and downs and what he thinks he got right and got wrong. This is a smart, serious, entertaining, and longlasting look at what today's finest journalism does well— and what it can do better.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781586484392
Publisher: PublicAffairs
Publication date: 03/28/2008
Pages: 304
Product dimensions: 5.78(w) x 7.93(h) x 0.77(d)

About the Author

Before his appointment as the Times's first public editor, Daniel Okrent served in a number of prominent positions in magazine publishing, among them editor-at-large of Time Inc., managing editor of Life, and editor of New England Monthly. He is the author of four books, most recently Great Fortune: The Epic of Rockefeller Center, which was a finalist for the 2003 Pulitzer Prize in history. Okrent lives in New York and on Cape Cod with his wife, poet Rebecca Okrent.

Table of Contents

Notes on an Unendearing Profession     1
An Advocate for Times Readers Introduces Himself     29
You Can Stand on Principle and Still Stub a Toe     35
The Quote, the Whole Quote and Nothing but the Quote     42
Dr. Dean Assumes His Place on the Examining Table     49
All the News That's Fit to Print? Or Just Our News?     56
It's Been 11 Weeks. Do You Know Where Your Ombudsman Is?     62
What Do You Know, and How Do You Know It?     68
Setting the Record Straight-But Who Can Find the Record?     75
The Privileges of Opinion, the Obligations of Fact     81
The Juror, the Paper and a Dubious Need to Know     88
Paper of Record? No Way, No Reason, No Thanks     93
There's No Business Like Tony Awards Business     98
And Now for a Brief Intermission...     105
Weapons of Mass Destruction? Or Mass Distraction?     107
An Electrician From the Ukrainian Town of Lutsk     118
The Report, the Review and a Grandstand Play     124
When the Right to Know Confronts the Need to Know     130
Is The New York Times a Liberal Newspaper?     136
Q. How Was Your Vacation? A. Pretty Newsy, Thanks     142
Corrections: Eccentric, Essential and Ready for anUpgrade     149
How Would Jackson Pollock Cover This Campaign?     155
Political Bias at The Times? Two Counterarguments     163
A Correction     168
Analysts Say Experts Are Hazardous to Your Newspaper     170
It's Good to Be Objective. It's Even Better to Be Right     177
Arts Editors and Arts Consumers: Not on the Same Page     183
Now It's Time for The Times to Talk About The Times     190
First of All, There's the Continuing Daily Miracle     196
No Picture Tells the Truth. The Best Do Better Than That     203
Numbed by the Numbers, When They Just Don't Add Up     209
Talking on the Air and Out of Turn: The Trouble With TV     216
When the Readers Speak Out, Can Anyone Hear Them?     222
The War of the Words: A Dispatch From the Front Lines     228
A Few Point Along the Line Between News and Opinion     234
EXTRA! EXTRA! Read Not Quite Everything About It!     240
The Hottest Button: How The Times Covers Israel and Palestine     246
Briefers and Leakers and the Newspapers Who Enable Them     253
13 Things I Meant to Write About but Never Did     260
Acknowledgments     269
Index     271

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