Constant's pations

If it's more than 30 minutes old, it's not news. It's a blog.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

NYT: Does it really pretend to care?

The goal of management is to solve problems. If you're not serious about solving the problem, why is management there?

But more bluntly, given the talent at the NYT, why aren't the best and brightest reading the writing on the wall and jumping ship?

Matt has another nice one: Just when you thought the world might want to know, the beloved NYT buries it head in the sand.

There are times like this when I wonder whether people really want to know reality.

The one thing about "not looking into something" is that the problem doesn't go away. There are likely entrenched management issues that keep popping up at the NYT.

The reporters are likely well aware of the issues, and whether they stay or leave, their conduct is a signal: Discipline problems, morale, compliance issues.

* * *

If you remember the various NYT articles that turned out to be fabrications, I'm guessing there's a pattern there.

The solution isn't to simply jump from one crisis to another, but look at the overall pattern of conduct.

* * *

If there's a particular issue involving the public editor, but that editor requires a specific assignment before commenting, then they really aren't a public editor.

They're an editor that publicly comments on things that are of interest to the public, but their agenda is driven not by customers, but by management.

That's not a real public editor. It's an illusion of a public editor. What other illusions are going on at the NYT, besides the ones we already know about?

* * *

At this point, I'm sure there's a group of people within the NYT who naively think that the blogosphere "cant' figure out" what's up at the NYT.

Actually, it's fairly easy to see. The question will be: Who's going to be the one, within the NYT, who says, "You know, they're right; we suck and we need to fix these recurring problems."

But what do they do? They let this stuff spill over to the public media.

* * *

If the NYT doesn't want to fix this mess on its own, why isn't' there a competing management with either REIT financing, IPO-magnitude buyouts, or some other VC-funding people getting together with some other smart managers and saying, "Hay, these guys are toast, let's have a hostile takeover"?

Or is someone saying, with their inaction on the buy-out option, that the NYT is so old hat that it's not worth saving?

If that's the "real answer," why wait: Why not shut it down now, and put the best reporters on the road looking for better opportunities.

* * *

This is like slow death. Just when you think management is serious, the put your on life support, cut your rations, and then give you a longer list of "to dos" just prior to a power point presentation.

Scott Adams, are you the NYT's only hope?

* * *

The issue with the NYT: They're not covering an issue that the public wants to know about. Is that stupid, or what?

My reading of the "public editor" pieces is that they appear to be editorials, not "the good stuff" the public wants to know: "What's going on here?"

The first, in May 2004, discussed a controversial editors' note the Times ran the same week admitting mistakes in its past WMD coverage. In that column, Okrent noted "the flimsiness" of a Miller story in 2003 related to WMDs.

The other columns were a Feb. 6, 2005 piece in which Okrent criticized Miller for breaking news about her case on MSNBC rather than in the Times, while a brief portion of his last column in May 2005 said the prospect of Miller being jailed for protecting a source was "nausea-inducing."
For a "public" editor to say that Miller's jailing is "nausea-inducing" suggest that the jailing was wrong.

* * *

However, the issue isn't a matter of the right to free press; but whether prosecutors can get information about those who violate the law.

I would have preferred the public editor to have taken the perspective of, "What are the general issues here; and is this jailing really about the 1st Amendment?"

The key is to know the game going on: The rule of law and obstruction of justice is at stake; the issue of freedom of press is not a license to protect alleged criminals [Reminder . . . ]

I get the impression the NYT has bought into the RNC-White House propaganda, and are stuck in the headlights.

* * *

If you're not going to credibly discuss public editor issues, why have a public editor? Why not simply clearly state, "We will not do this, we're not serious" and then bounce that job over to media watch dogs, who can then fill in the gaps.

* * *

Here's a comforting message: "he may eventually have to write something about the Miller coverage," . . isn't that kind of like saying, "The British Navy may get around to dealing with the Colonies one day."

Either you're going to do it or not.

Let's have a decision, not more of this, "maybe if the weather cooperates we'll think about getting ready to plan for relief supplies . . . "

* * *

My vote: Get rid of the public editor job; cancel the contract; take the contract termination costs; and then pretend the problems don't exist.

Within short order the NYT, lacking a credible outlet for some feedback, will implode and swept into the waste heap of history. Along with the RNC.

However, if the NYT wants to go through the apparent motions of a public defender, I'd really like to know:

  • What was morale like after Miller was thrown in jail; did anyone gleefully run down the hall screaming, "She finally got what she deserved - - Karma!"?

  • Did the prosecutor have a following in the NYT who agreed with the sense of rule of law and holding the leakers accountable;

  • Were head hunters showing up with nice fruit baskets; or were employees ordering takeout as the screws were tightened;

  • How were the lessons of the plagiarism issues factored into the management decisions;

  • How does an editor go about solving a problem that appears to be simple one of, "We just suck at fact checking and staying independent of the scoundrels in the White House?"

  • Why is the media "concerned" about continued access to "sources" that threaten to whithold access unless propaganda is spewed out; why isn't there a policy of, "We aren't going to be a platform for White House lawlessness, propaganda, and non-sense?"; why isn't the "threat of losing access" mentioned as part of the story, and let the public know about that?