Before his appointment as the Times's first public editor, Daniel Okrent served in a number of prominent positions in magazine publishing, among them editor-at-large of Time Inc., managing editor of Life, and editor of New England Monthly. He is the author of four books, most recently Great Fortune: The Epic of Rockefeller Center, which was a finalist for the 2003 Pulitzer Prize in history. Okrent lives in New York and on Cape Cod with his wife, poet Rebecca Okrent.
Public Editor #1: The Collected Columns (with Reflections, Reconsiderations, and Even a Few Retractions) of the First Ombudsman of The New York Timesby Daniel Okrent
From December 2003 to May 2005, Daniel Okrent served as the New York Times' first "Public Editor," a position created following the newspaper's Jayson Blair scandal and the tumultuous reign and resignation of Howell Raines as Executive Editor. His mission: read the paper and provide his assessments, without guidance from the paper itself and without fear/i>
From December 2003 to May 2005, Daniel Okrent served as the New York Times' first "Public Editor," a position created following the newspaper's Jayson Blair scandal and the tumultuous reign and resignation of Howell Raines as Executive Editor. His mission: read the paper and provide his assessments, without guidance from the paper itself and without fear or favor, of how well it executed its responsibility to provide objective, accurate, and complete coverage of the world-at-large. Not an easy task, but the New York Times chose the right writer for the job. Experienced, wise and witty, opinionated but never shrill, he delivered. Okrent addressed subjects ranging from WMD coverage, reporter self-promotion, pulling for or piling on political candidates, and corrections policy, to the Tony Awards, to the great delight and consternation of the paper's readers, and those in its own newsroom. Now, collected, amended, and assessed by Okrent here are the complete columns of his rocky and illuminating eighteen months along with an evaluation of the entire experience; its ups and downs and what he thinks he got right and got wrong. This is a smart, serious, entertaining, and longlasting look at what today's finest journalism does well and what it can do better.
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I loved Okrent's columns when I read them in the Times, but having these columns compiled in a single text--with his reflections following each piece--creates an incredibly rich reading experience. It's more than just a journey through the innards of the New York Times it's an exploration of every key and complex issue that confronts any serious journalistic enterprise. Any person who is interested in meta-journalism (that is, journalism about journalism) will find Okrent's humble and honest meta-journalistic exploration of his meta-journalistic endeavors a fascinating experience. I tore through the book in three days. It would be a great primer for a course on journalism.