Both New York Times editor Bill Keller and Los Angeles Times editor Dean Baquet have tried to explain away their reckless decision of June 23, but the anger is only mounting. Yesterday I asked Larry Kudlow the impact of their decisions to publish classified information that helps terrorists elude capture on the companies’ brand and economic health. He replied:
Killed ’em. Killed ’em. You cannot believe the intensity of anti-New York Times feeling. Killed ’em. You know, we sent a guy, Cody Willard, who’s a contributor to our program, and we do this little cam thing. He goes out and interviews people on the street, and I had him ask the question about the Times. People are furious. We did a poll, investor class poll on it, and people were just…80/20 against the New York Times.
How deep is the public’s disgust? So deep that Keller and Baquet have teamed up to issue yet another appeal for understanding.
It is the same old, same old, and still as unpersuasive and even more unresponsive to the arguments against their actions and the evidence that is accumulating that not only did the provide terrorists with crucial information, they have in fact damaged the willingness of other countries to allow the U.S. to monitor Swift.
The only interesting thing about the piece is that the two co-authored it, meaning they decided to cooperate when the damage being done was to themselves, but to compete when the damage was to the national interest.
The disgust will only keep growing, and hopefully when the Senate returns, its resolution will put the blame for this sorry episode in the history of journalism squarely where it belongs –not on the “media,” but on two specific newspapers run –I won’t say “led”– by two specific editors.
If it was a fight, they’d stop it. The pummeling the not-so-dynamic duo are taking may reveal a reason for the reckless “print everything” strategy: In the old days, the newspapers owned the commentary business. They had no competitors, and the weeklies and monthlies could never catch up with even the most egregious misrepresentations. The papers were beyond reach. No matter what they did, no one could effectively criticize them (i.e. mobilize public opinion against them.)
Now the newspapers –even their biggest guns, the editors-in-chief!– cannot withstand even a half news cycle before their preposterous posturings are shredded.
It erodes a “news” organization’s credibility to be so outclassed so often.
All that newspapers can do to retain a claim for market share is publish secrets that no one else would publish. But this niche of a niche disgusts more than it attracts.
The instant availability of expertise is what has doomed “journalists.” They can’t defend the indefensible when trios like Althouse/Bainbridge/Macguire saunter up to the keyboard and destroy their pretensions in a few minutes.
If the two editors didn’t so richly deserve the scorn, I’d feel bad for them.
Columbia School of Journalism Dean Nick Lemann saw the crisis coming, and he added a program at CSJ to teach “power skills” to journalists so that they could compete with the experts who can quickly see through the many errors even hard working journalists leave in their wake.
But he forgot one key course: Humility. Know what you don’t know.
Keller and Baquet don’t know counterterrorism. And because they don’t, terrorists have been given a gift, and innocents will die.
It. Is. That. Simple.