Keller weighs in on ‘opinion media’ interest

KELLER WEIGHS IN ON ‘OPINION MEDIA’ INTEREST…. Following up on an earlier item, New York Times public editor Clark Hoyt lamented his paper’s coverage of stories like ACORN and Van Jones. He spoke to Jill Abramson, the paper’s managing editor for news, who agreed with Hoyt about the Times neglecting “the issues that are dominating Fox News and talk radio.”

In his column on the subject, Hoyt reported that Abramson and NYT executive editor Bill Keller plan to “assign an editor to monitor opinion media and brief them frequently on bubbling controversies.” In the larger context, this new editorial assignment seemed to be focused on the right — the Times thinks it’s missing stories important to Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh, and is taking steps to keep apprised of right-wing interests.

It turns out, Hoyt’s piece was incomplete. Greg Sargent talked to the NYT and found that it has something more ideologically diverse in mind. Through a spokesperson, Bill Keller said:

“We haven’t assigned someone to be in charge of ‘opinion media.’ We’ve asked a colleague who happens to be a voracious consumer of online political buzz to help us (meaning me and Jill) informally, stay current with what issues are erupting, right and left. The responsibility for covering the subject still resides with the reporters on those beats, their editors, and ultimately me and Jill.”

This seems a bit different than what Hoyt described yesterday. Indeed, Keller’s comments make it seem as if someone who’s already on staff, and who likes to keep up with online buzz, will let some of the leading editors know what’s generating attention below the surface.

There’s nothing especially wrong with this — it might even be a good idea — so long as the focus isn’t exclusively on “the issues that are dominating Fox News and talk radio,” the NYT doesn’t consider something “news” just because Limbaugh is talking about it, and the paper is willing to help separate fact from fiction for its readers.