Tuesday, May 31, 2005

The Importance of being Okrent

I am by no means qualified to discuss the specifics of the public debate between Paul Krugman and Daniel Okrent. But there was one part of the exchange that struck me as seriously odd. Here's Okrent on why he didn't complain more to Krugman when he he held the position of public editor:

2. This was the first he heard from me on these specific issues partly because I learned early on in this job that Prof. Krugman would likely be more willing to contribute to the Frist for President campaign than to acknowledge the possibility of error. When he says he agreed “reluctantly” to one correction, he gives new meaning to the word “reluctantly”; I can’t come up with an adverb sufficient to encompass his general attitude toward substantive criticism. But I laid off for so long because I also believe that columnists are entitled by their mandate to engage in the unfair use of statistics, the misleading representation of opposing positions, and the conscious withholding of contrary data. But because they’re entitled doesn’t mean I or you have to like it, or think it’s good for the newspaper.

So let me see if I've got this right: Okrent believes that columnits are entitled to "engage in the unfair use of statistics"? What then did Daniel think was his job? Keeping the public engaged while protecting the paper's columnists from criticism?

And speaking of criticism, Okrent apparently felt that Krugman didn't react well to criticism, so why bother doing it?

Why Daniel? Because that was your job! You were the Public Editor of the New York Times! One of the "mandates" of that position is to bring criticism to the attention of the paper's contributors. The fact that Krugman might have bitten your head off in the process and you didn't want to face that only proves one thing: you are a coward!

Good god! Where did the Times find this idiot?


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