Saturday, August 20, 2005

Bill Keller, NYT executive editor, rips book review by Judge Posner

According to Editor and Publisher, in what must be a first, the editor of The New York Times (Bill Keller) has written a letter to the editor (to appear Aug. 21)
ripping a recent book review in his own paper (by Judge Richard Posner of the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals).

According to E&P:

Keller calls the Posner essay “mostly a regurgitation, as tendentious and cynical as the worst of the books he consumed.”

He charges that Posner “weirdly” makes almost no distinction “within the vast category of American media, between those that are aggressively partisan and those that strive to keep opinion sequestered from news, between outlets that invest in serious reporting and those that simply riff on the reporting of others, between the sensational and the more high-minded, between organizations that hasten to correct errors and those that could not care less, between the cartoonish shout shows on cable TV and the more ambitious journalism of, say, the paper you are holding in your hands. [LBE note: As noted elsewhere by me, the New York Times itself does not always "hasten" to correct errors. Similarly, to this day, the Harvard Law Review never corrected its mistake that the PTO grants patents on 97% of applications. The Boston University Law Review never corrected the mistake that Clarke assumed every continuation leads to a patent. One could go on and on. One wonders who Keller has in mind on organizations that hasten to correct errors.]

Posner the polemicist is sadly consistent with Posner the federal appeals court judge, who has been notably hostile to the idea that the First Amendment affords journalists special protections. … [Hmm, which news organization recently caved on the First Amendment? Wasn't it the New York Times?]

“The saddest thing is that Judge Posner's market determinism leaves no room for the other dynamics I've witnessed in my 35 years in newspapers: the idealism of reporters who think they can make the world better, the intellectual satisfaction of puzzling through a complicated issue, the competitive gratification of being first to discover a buried story, the pride in striving to uphold a professional code of fair play, the quest for peer recognition and, yes, the feedback from attentive and thoughtful readers. [Hmm, what about Jayson?] He makes no allowance for the possibility that conscientious reporters and editors are capable of setting aside their personal beliefs or standing up to their advertisers (and the prejudices of their readers) to do work they believe in.”

Others, including liberals Bill Moyers and Eric Alterman, join Keller in protesting the review of several recent books on the media.


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