When we learned that New York Times editor Bill Keller was getting his very own column in the New York Times Magazine, our keen media instinct—honed by years of reading the Twitter and writing juvenile jokes on the internet while never doing any "real reporting"—told us that sooner or later, this column would become an institutional embarrassment. Spoiler: sooner!
Today—in only his second column—Bill decided to write the "new media ain't all it's cracked up to be" column. Yes he did. Despite our very specific request that such columns be permanently shelved until someone somewhere in the world comes up with something new to say on the subject. Bill Keller, sadly, has not done so.
Instead of slogging paragraph through chuckly paragraph, allow us to just enumerate the crimes Bill Keller has committed in this column:
1. Aggressive false modesty. The very first sentence: "According to the list makers at Forbes, I am the 50th most powerful person in the world." He only mentions it—and numerous other laurels—to pooh-pooh it, of course. "The world conspires to convince me of my significance." Haha, that's the worst!
2. Purported misunderstanding of his own power. Bill just runs a little ol' newspaper, why do all these people think he's so important? "If I were vaporized by aliens tomorrow, my family would miss me, but the 1,100 journalists of The New York Times would not miss a deadline." Well, none of us would miss your columns, for sure. But anyone who works an entire career to become the editor of the world's most powerful news agenda-setter, and then says he doesn't understand why people treat him like an important person, is either lying or dumb.
3. A false pose of inability to understand capitalism. "And we have bestowed our highest honor - market valuation - not on those who labor over the making of original journalism but on aggregation." Huh. You know Bill, if you read the New York Times' media reporting, you'd probably have a much clearer understanding of why that is. Did you know that Bill Keller's dad was the head of Chevron? Funny that he doesn't understand how market value works.
4. Failure to come up with any imaginative insults, takedowns, metaphors, or other literary devices to illustrate a point that's been made for years by countless other media thinkers. "In Somalia [aggregation] would be called piracy. In the mediasphere, it is a respected business model." Harrrrrr! (Get it, Bill?)
He does insult Arianna Huffington, which is always okay with us. But Jesus Christ, Bill, if you'd read some media reporting once in a fucking while you'd know that this column has been written 27,895 times in the past decade, and it just gets staler every time. You're inching dangerously close to "old codger" territory, Bill. Not lovable old codger—cranky old codger. Andy Rooney-style old codger.
It's almost like the editors are scared to tell this guy his column sucks.
[NYT Magazine, photo via Getty]