Wednesday, October 18, 2006

"You're not fooling anyone, y'know."

From the Q&A for the "standards editor" at the New York Times:

Q. I read a story in a recent issue of New York Magazine about some of the current Times problems. At one point the story mentioned a dinner party given by the Washington bureau chief for Condoleezza Rice, then the president's National Security aide. As a former journalist of some 30 years, this strikes me as a huge conflict, regardless of the fact that the two people in question were friends of long standing. At what point in The Times food chain does this sort of practice cease being unethical? Would Dave Anderson be allowed to throw a gathering in honor of Joe Torre? Could a metro reporter host a luncheon for the chief of the NYPD narcotics bureau? How can we hope for the Times to give us accurate coverage of the things our government is doing when we discover that you are not only dining with them, but setting the table?

A. This query baffles me. I can't tell you how many diplomatic dinner parties I've been to in Saigon, Bonn, Moscow, Washington, and even here in New York. Believe me, diplomatic dinner parties are not gastronomic blasts or wine-tasting extravaganzas; they are not fun, they are all business. A gathering like this one is perfectly appropriate if it's not a testimonial, and I am sure it wasn't -- it was an opportunity to report on what the president's national security aide was thinking and doing on the administration's foreign policy. I would throw the question back. How can you hope for The Times to give accurate coverage of things the government is doing or planning if we refuse to meet officials except at their press conferences?

Um...any questions?