Man Without Qualities

Thursday, June 05, 2003

And There They Go!

New York Times executive editor Howell Raines and managing editor Gerald Boyd resigned.

The Times article on the event says:

Mr. Raines, 60, told [the assembled Times multitude]: ``Remember, when a great story breaks out, go like hell.'' The remark ... could have been spoken by ... the legendary Alabama football coach Bear Bryant ...

But one would have to be complete, pretentious nerd writing for a swooning, out-of-touch New York newspaper to even imagine Bear Bryant giving a rat's ass about any "great story" breaking out.

And why couldn't Raines just say something simple and classy like: "When I make a mistake, it's a beaut - so now they're making me leave"? The subtle allusion to LaGuardia would have been just right.

The Times also notes with more inappropriate, self-preening sentimentality that the decapitations occurred In a hastily arranged ceremony in the third-floor newsroom, on the same spot where the paper had celebrated winning a record seven Pulitzer prizes just 14 months ago...

Sure. Just like Nixon leaving the White House only months after he won a record re-election victory.

Actually, if we're all really lucky, it will turn out to be more like Spiro Agnew leaving - with Pinch's departure still to come for that final, Nixonian moment!

POSTSCRIPT: A bizarre aspect of the Times resignations is the appointment of Joseph Lelyveld as Interim Executive Editor. This appointment is bizarre because the resignations are apparently attributable to the Jayson Blair and Rick Bragg disasters. But as this Slate article points out, Lelyveld is already sullied on just these counts:

Lelyveld's stock protects him still. Nobody blames him for the Blair and Bragg fiascos, but he's as culpable as Raines. He hired and promoted both reporters and gave Bragg the idea that regular newsroom rules didn't apply to him. Bragg suggests as much in his memoir, All Over but the Shoutin'. Lelyveld, then managing editor, stops at Bragg's desk to discuss his second story for the Times, one that Bragg thought his bosses might reject. Writes Bragg, "I do not remember exactly what [Lelyveld] said, but it was something to the effect of, 'I know we said we would try to get you some gentle editing, but …' and my heart froze. 'But we had to change the comma in your lead.' "

Lelyveld is not hated in the newsroom, but Raines is. Since both men are equally culpable in the Blair and Bragg fiascos, the resignations of Raines and Boyd seem not to be directly prompted by those fiascos - but rather by the newsroom hatred of Raines that condensed around them. That hatred seems to have made the Times all but ungovernable - which, come to think of it, is often the way affirmative action programs - and all hiring and promotions systems not based on merit - play themselves out.

And, speaking of "merit" and people who have it - let's not forget, now that Raines is gone it again may be possible for Andrew Sullivan to write for the Times magazine!

UPDATE: Don Luskin finds shocking, unexpected and probably unintended honesty at the Times. Goodness - how did honesty get through all the baloney plating?

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