New York Times ombudsman Dan Okrent’s final column yesterday contained a list of topics he intended to cover during his 18-month reign, but didn’t. It’s a good read. I took interest in his chastisement of The Times’s opinion columnists Safire, Krugman and Dowd, but not for ideological reasons as much for Okrent’s call to the paper’s publisher to hold them to higher journalistic standards.
I wonder how many Americans really distinguish between the news hole and the opinion pages? Yes, of course all of us New York cognoscenti know the difference, but I’m talking about rank and file Americans. Do they recognize that Hannity, Colmes, Stewart and O’Reilly, or Dowd, Krugman, Brooks and Safire, do not abide by the same rigors or rules as those on the “news” side of their media enterprises?
When a PR person wishes to advance a client’s or his organization’s point of view, it is not uncommon to enlist columnists or commentators to advocate for that point-of-view. Will Rush Limbaugh and Al Franken ever comply to more rigorous journalistic standards in their daily rantings and ravings? Unlikely. But I do think Mr. Okrent is on to something.