When New York Times bossman Bill Killer’s byline appeared on articles datelined Tehran last spring, media watchers were confused. Was this hubris, a desperate and dangerous move for an embattled editor, or something more sinister? Or on the other hand, was it a laudable moment when the general takes the rifle from his private and hops over the hill to show his men how to fight?
Keller is a highly decorated reporter, of course, having filed definitive dispatches from among other places, Russia, which is where he earned his 1989 Pulitzer. But he also worked in South Africa, which is why we have this:
As president Mr. Mandela could be surprisingly approachable — he once allowed me, the New York Times correspondent in South Africa at the time, to shadow him during a day of his presidency, something I can scarcely imagine an American president allowing. But since stepping down in 1999, and especially since his memory began to fail him, he has become more reclusive, protected by a staff that worries he might embarrass himself. But he obliged Mr. Freeman.
It’s part of a lengthy film review Keller filed this week of Invictus, in which Morgan Freeman plays South African leader Nelson Mandela. I’ll leave the matter of his critical chops to the true film aficionados, but as a regular and eager reader of the paper, I feel justified in saying this:
Bill Keller, please feel free to share your sizable experience as a foreign correspondent. Tell us about days you shadowed presidents; share anecdotes from the day tanks rolled into Red Square; fly out to the next catastrophe and get your boots muddy for a week or two.
What I can’t as yet support are the writing efforts of another estimable NYT boss, Keller deputy Jill Abramson. Her “Puppy Diaries,”in which she shares the travails of owning a young dog as a Manhattan media executive, strike me as both stunningly tone deaf, given the times, and worse, an almost monstrously inessential use of a true talent.
Ticket to Kabul, Mrs. Abramson? Or am I being a curmudgeon? (Her “Chewing Towards Bethlehem” headline on one of the early columns did not, for me, endear.)
I just think we should expect more of our top journalists.
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