Thursday, May 15, 2014

Urbane Renewal at The New York Times

Dean Baquet was named Executive Editor of The New York Times yesterday, after Jill Abramson was fired.
Dean Baquet is an African-American, a Pulitzer Prize winning investigative reporter from a working class family in New Orleans. His father's Creole restaurant was boycotted after Mr. Baquet, the cub reporter, reported about legendary New Orleans corruption.
He won the Pulitzer in 1988 for exposing Chicago City Council corruption.
The first African-American Executive Editor of the Times, Dean Baquet was fired as editor of the Los Angeles Times in 2006 for First Amendment and union protected activity, refusing to fire hundreds of reporters. He stood on a desk after his firing, telling the newsroom staff, "We shall overcome."
We need more reporters and editors like him. Mr. Baquet never graduated college, having had so much fun investigating corruption in New Orleans that he never went back to Columbia University to complete his degree.
I can identify with all of that. I nearly didn't graduate college either and only did so because my mother insisted (I was the first in our family to graduate college). As Appalachian Observer editor, I needed to finish up three credit hours before I could start law school. Georgetown accepted my House of Representatives Science and Technology Committee Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee testimony before then-Rep. Al Gore on Oak Ridge mercury as independent study after I added footnotes.
Too many newsrooms are run by snobs.
Too many newsrooms are run by cognitive misers, unenlightened people who know not that they know not that they know not.
Too many newsrooms are run by clubby people of the sort former Associate Editor and Washington Bureau Chief Tom Wicker of the New York Times wrote about in his 1977 book, On Press, who never dare investigate locally predominant organizations, whether Big Tobacco in North Carolina or the Tourism Business in Florida.
Too many newsrooms are run by people who Always Cower to Power, as with former New York Times editor William Keller, who spiked articles about illegal spying on Americans until after the 2004 election, depriving Americans of our Right to Know in the name of national security, ignoring JFK's statement that the Times should have reported what it knew in 1961 on the Bay of Pigs invasion planning, thereby preventing a disaster.
Too many newsrooms are run by Chamber of Commerce members, Babbitts, all-too-comfortable people who think their readers want to read what they hear at the Rotary -- hacks and sad sacks who know too few facts and don't share enough of those they do know with "We, The People," their readers.
I am confident that The New York Times will continue investigating Florida political corruption, as evidenced by the front page article and four (4) inside pages on the Michelle O'Connell case, "Two Gunshots On A Summer Night" by Walt Bogdanich.
New York Times Executive Editor Dean Baquet should be interested in it stores about St. Augustine and Florida, e.g., primarily African-American residents of West Augustine paying more than A PREMIUM OF one million dollars a year EXTRA for water to subsidize the privileged Republican lifestyles of nearly all-white organizations like Northrop Grumman, Flagler College, Flagler Hospital, hotels, motels, restaurants, bars and laundries.
Three cheers for Dean Baquet for his leadership of the best newspaper in the world.

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