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Friday, January 9, 2015

Cooper Responds

If you've followed the unfortunate spectacle of top NYT editor Dean Baquet calling anyone--in this case, longtime West Coast writer and now professor Marc Cooper--"an asshole," here's full reply Cooper just posted on Facebook. 
As I am the "asshole" I will now respond to Editor Baquet. If you don't know what we are talking about see the thread inside the Gawker piece I have linked to. Since Editor Baquet's public outburst he sent me a FB message to try and reel things in and put fires out. Hey, Editor Baquet, don't overestimate yourself. I shook off your petty, childish and insulting outburst this morning the same way a dog shakes of a light coat of fleas. Web trolls are a dime a dozen. I had an enjoyable day at the shooting range with a good friend, we went to a good deli afterward and had a nosh and we never mentioned you until a couple of reporters started calling. I'm cool. I think you are the one who is going to have to deal with his public reputation, not me. 
Now.. to the underlying issue... as to whether or not the Times should have published the cartoons that led to 23 people being shot and the largest mass killing of journalists in recent history. I asked Baquet, rhetorically, exactly how many people had to die to allow him to publish the pix. Then his silly response appeared. Now, 24 hrs later. and I think this is the most important point: outside of a small circle friends, Editor Baquet, nobody gives a flying fig anymore if The New York Times has or has not published the cartoons. While your papal council was solemnly discussing this matter, many other outlets including conservative British dailies, HuffPost, Buzzfeed, Slate, Gawker and myriad other outlets with tens of millions of viewers had ALREADY published them. Nobody really needed The New York Times to do it because by the time you decided not to do it, it was already done by others! Aha, so the world has changed in the last 20 years and The New York Times no longer occupies the same position as it did then, fortunately. Indeed, the decision you made was, at least unwittingly, just how relevant the NYTimes would be in the international dialogue on this outrage. You decided to be less rather than more relevant. 
And then our generation of news people knead their hands and wonder out loud why is that young people do not read our newspapers. One reason is that they don't fully trust them (good) and suspect what they are reading and seeing is more mediated than simply "edited." So let me repeat: the Times has already dealt itself out on this issue and debating yes or no on it today is nothing short of sophistry. Your stated reasons for not publishing, as reported in Ms. Sullivan's post, was not only inflated with pompous obfuscation but also failed the giggle test. At least I hope so... I certainly hope you are not being authentic when you offer us all those pious ruminations about not wanting to insult a medieval religious suspicion that holds the image of somebody so sacred that some are willing to murder for it. It has been well noted that, when appropriate, the Times (to its credit) HAS published on several occasions savagely anti-semitic and anti-christian drawings when they have become newsworthy. So what's the deal with balking on drawings that piss off some Muslims? I suspect the real reason is that you, as editor, do not want to jeopardize the sourcing and safety of your staff working in Islamic areas. Now, that's a pretty reasonable argument, even though I made it and not you. I don't agree with that call but I sure would understand it. I think if you had simply stated that reality you might have gotten a lot more sympathy and would have sounded more like an editor rather than a Sunday school teacher concerned not to incite the believers. 
Anyway, as stated above, it no longer matters. The only question that I think supporters of the NYTimes should be addressing is, if the Times occupies a very different and diminished space compared to 20 years ago, exactly what space will it fill 20 years from now? P.S. A friendly suggestion... when a top New York Times editor makes ANY public statement, especially in a heated polemic, the word "arrogance" should be avoided at all costs.

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