Tom Scocca: "It once did not matter if editors had all of their facts straight at the morning news meeting; there was plenty of time for reporting and editing. But with the world looking over their shoulders, things are different. Editors are dressing better, speaking in complete, sound-bite sentences, and mistakes are embarrassing."
Choire Sicha: Uh oh.
Tom: I'll let you go ahead and watch the TimesCast program for me.
Choire: Oh no. You're not getting off that easy.
Tom: My browser is cloggy. Too many tabs! I am therefore Old Media.
Choire: Honestly? I can never get it to play in my browser.
Tom: Do they have an editors' meeting now to prepare for the editors' meeting?
Choire: I can't imagine they'd have time to do that. Okay, I am actually watching the April 9th edition? And it's very strange! Kind of cute? But they say like "And the top story of the day is…" And they show a story… published on the Times website? And then, you're like… So that's this morning's news! Then there's some traditional story-pitching to the team–jockeying for A1 space, I guess, etc.–that you are familiar with. Then there's some jazz! Then there is some really fakey fake chat between editors in the newsroom itself? That part is absurdly faux.
Tom: It does say they have the power to say "Cut!" and have a do-over.
Choire: Yes. You know what, I dislike this. But I would like it if it was like raw feed from the A1 meeting?
Tom: Sure you would, but it would be stupid and irresponsible for them to do that.
Tom: Editorial meetings are not meant to be seen. This is the same mistake Newsweek made when it published its inane and offensive internal e-mail chain about when to use or not use the term "terrorism."
Choire: I like the ideas behind these things?
Tom: What about the idea do you like?
Choire: So once upon a time those institutions were in the business of making a thing. Now they make a couple of things? Or at least a thing and then a thing highly related to the thing? And I view TimesCast etc. as both an extension of at least one of those things but also a way to understand the underpinnings of those things? I mean, you know I am a fan of the sausage getting made. But this isn't the casings and the guts. This is just a PR initiative.
Tom: Look, I'm a big admirer of The Muppet Show.
Choire: Well who isn't!
Tom: The structural genius of the Muppet Show was that the Muppets were performers putting on a theatrical production, so they were creating a frame within a frame–one more level of distance between the viewer and the guy crouching out of view with his hand in a felt bag.
Tom: The Muppets let you go "backstage."
Tom: They presented "backstage" narratives explaining what went on between the curtains.
Tom: They even had Statler and Waldorf up there in their box, disparaging the show–at the Times, they would be the Public Editors.
Choire: I'm sure plenty of people in the Times would agree (not in a nice way though)!
Tom: So when they put Bill Keller in the TimesCast, is he Frank Oz, or is he Fozzie Bear?
Choire: In my limited sampling, he has not been much of a character? But I assume he has a hand in someone's ass. (Or his head, or wherever a Muppet gets it?) Huh. Do you know what the top news story of the day is?
Tom: According to their meeting?
Tom: Nukes? Someone playing golf?
Choire: Historic Nuclear Summit in Washington! Dow Breaks 11000! "Obviously the big news of the morning is the nuclear summit in Washington" is what AME Jim Roberts said at today's meeting. 1. Is it? 2. I think they mean "news event"? Or something like "pre-news"? 3. If it is, it's not at all on the front page of NYTimes.com except in the box that says "Today's TimesCast." Maybe it was earlier news but it turned out not to be news later and/or yet? THEN there is the fake back and forth again, in the news room, between Roberts and Marcus Mabry, a senior editor. Then there's something about recycling in Denmark? And bootlegging in Pakistan?
Tom: That all sounds very responsible and worthy of the Newspaper of Record.
Choire: It… does. It's also dull and vague as newsprint run through dish water.
Tom: I'm checking to see what's Most Viewed:
# The Queen of Talk Declined to Speak
# Hallucinogens Have Doctors Tuning In Again
# Georgia on My Mind
# Leaders Gather for Nuclear Talks as New Threat Is Seen
# Worlds Without Women
Choire: Hmm! Well that's not an un-match! Wait. I NEED TO HAVE A SIDEBAR.
Tom: " . . . "
Tom: I hope it's called "Sprezzatura."
Choire: You know what, I'll just not have an opinion for once.
Tom: Me too. Anyway.The puppets. I don't want the New York Times to let me into its editorial meetings.
Choire: Well they're sort of NOT? Except they are enough to get in "trouble" with the "public editor."
Tom: I'm saying: I don't want them to do it for real, and I'd just as soon they stopped pretending to do it.
Tom: Can you imagine if we'd had a Webcam in Peter Kaplan's office? Instead of merely the presumption it was all going to end up in somebody's roman a clef?
Choire: Well, I mean, it'd be amazing! I'd like one at the Times too! I love the idea of the future where we can just look into anyone's office. But. It's not good for anyone or anything particularly? And I cannot imagine this isn't a huge time-suck. And I believe, WITH NO EVIDENCE, that this is happening because of the "image" "problem" at the Times. I can see the PR department saying that "If we personalize the paper, people won't 'hate' us." Which isn't wrong and also is wrong.
Tom: OK, well, let's consider another ombudsperson's column from the weekend.
Breitbart's $100,000 challenge may be publicity-seeking theater. But it's part of widespread conservative claims that mainstream media, including The Post, swallowed a huge fabrication. The incidents are weeks old, but it's worth assigning Post reporters to find the truth.
Choire: Oh my. Oh, I thought that meant the New York Post. And I was like, "that's weird." Wait! It's Pulitzer announcement hour!
Tom: Wait, Gene Weingarten won again?
Choire: He won in 08. And now…. has won… for THE STORY WE DO NOT MENTION.
Tom: Babies in cars?
Choire: SHHH. That's two to the Times, this year, by the way.
Tom: It seems the Post won a lot.
Choire: Also nothing to the NY Post, the NY Daily News and the National Enquirer.
Tom: Now that the Washington Post is the best newspaper in America, can I vent about their atrocious headlines?
Tom: So the kid looks at the front of the sports page today and reads "Another jacket up his sleeve." You know how people are always yelling at the paper about HOW DO I EXPLAIN TO MY CHILD?
Tom: Well, how DO I explain that headline to my child?
Choire: "Another Jacket Up His Sleeve"? Huh?
Tom: I said, "OK, that's a picture of a man who won a golf game. And the prize for winning that golf game is a jacket."
Choire: Oh. Yeah, I needed that explainer too!
Tom: "And then when people say 'Up his sleeve,' they mean… well, they mean something is hidden, like there was some sort of trick or surprise prepared…which doesn't really have anything do to with winning a golf game, so…"
Tom: Please, publish a picture of two men kissing!
Tom: That is very easy to explain.
Choire: Ha! You're a minority parent on that one.
Tom: "They love each other." The end.
Choire: Oh. Hmm.
Tom: But how do I explain to my child, now that he is reading things, that sometimes adults don't care enough about stringing the words together in a way that makes sense?
Choire: I think that's a very morally damaging lesson to teach your child.
Tom: I don't want him exposed to that kind of perversion and depravity.
Tom: "Up his sleeve."
That's just rude… I think. Or IS IT? I have no idea!
Tom: I'm going to have to start hiding the newspaper from him.
Choire: Can I say this about headlines as well?
WRAP ALERT: Subject: EXCLUSIVE: Washington Post Wins 4 Pulitzer Prizes
Tom: That is an alert from The Wrap?
Tom: EXCLUSIVE. You know, I think I'm OK with them giving the prizes to what's left of Old Media still, then.
Choire: Hmm! Are all these things related? Like if the staff of the Times is so busy putting on makeup for this fake TV show, are they (or people just like them!) too busy to write good headlines for the Washington Post?
Tom: Maybe. And the staff of the Post is too busy getting mau-maued by Andrew Breitbart? Over the question of whether or not the people who were screaming "faggot" were also screaming "nigger."
Choire: Oh boy.
Tom: And whether anyone intentionally spat on a congressperson, or whether they just screamed in the person's face with such force and lack of self-control that they sprayed spittle.
Choire: Well! I bet Kathleen Parker could get us some answers.
Choire: You know. The one with the Pulitzer?
Tom: Yeah, I didn't even know what to say about that. She's one of the better op-ed columnists at the Post, but it's hard to express how minor an accomplishment that is. That just means she's not obviously an imbecile, a partisan hack, and/or a liar.
Choire: Well that does deserve some kind of badge and/or prize.
Tom: Like getting off the Post op-ed page?
Choire: Now that's a prize.
Choire: Ugh. I did it.
Choire: I fell into rereading the Weingarten story.
Tom: Happy afternoon! So are we going to put some of this up on the Web, to illuminate our internal process?
Choire: Only when I'm done weeping about the babies. And only if I can call it…
Tom: DONE AND DONE.