Margaret Sullivan — who works for the New York Times newspaper as its paid critic — certainly knows how to do her job. Browsing through her archive shows prolific, insightful, on-target analyses of the paper’s foibles.
I especially appreciate her response to the NYT’s selection of Michael Kinsley to review Glenn Greenwald’s book. Kinsley was an odd choice because he has already come out against the type of government whistleblowing that Greenwald has uncovered. The most criticized quote from Kinsley’s review:
The question is who decides. It seems clear, at least to me, that the private companies that own newspapers, and their employees, should not have the final say over the release of government secrets, and a free pass to make them public with no legal consequences. In a democracy (which, pace Greenwald, we still are), that decision must ultimately be made by the government. No doubt the government will usually be overprotective of its secrets, and so the process of decision-making — whatever it turns out to be — should openly tilt in favor of publication with minimal delay. But ultimately you can’t square this circle. Someone gets to decide, and that someone cannot be Glenn Greenwald.
I really have trouble believing that a journalist like Michael Kinsley — who edited The New Republic and the editorial pages of the LA Times — could write these words. Sullivan responds perfectly and with a bunch of hyperlinks to her sources:
Mr. Kinsley’s central argument ignores important tenets of American governance. There clearly is a special role for the press in America’s democracy; the Founders explicitly intended the press to be a crucial check on the power of the federal government, and the United States courts have consistently backed up that role. It’s wrong to deny that role, and editors should not have allowed such a denial to stand. Mr. Kinsley’s argument is particularly strange to see advanced in the paper that heroically published the Pentagon Papers, and many of the Snowden revelations as well. What if his views were taken to their logical conclusion? Picture Daniel Ellsberg and perhaps the Times reporter Neil Sheehan in jail; and think of all that Americans would still be in the dark about — from the C.I.A.’s black sites to the abuses of the Vietnam War to the conditions at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center to the widespread spying on ordinary Americans.
Well said. I hope Sullivan hangs out at the Times for a while.