We're happy to say that we can: We're going to admit it. Of all the journalists in the past twenty years, Daniel Okrent, for some unknown reason, just may annoy us the most.
We have no idea why that is. We don't intend to defend that reaction. We offer it as an act of irrational full disclosure.
More than a decade ago, Okrent was the New York Times' very first public editor. For unknown reasons, Slate's Isaac Chotiner has interviewed him on the subject of the press corps' coverage of Candidate Trump.
Inevitably, Okrent is quite defensive concerning the high-end elite press. To our ear, he also doesn't exactly make sense. Below, you see the first Q-and-A, deathlessly posted in full:
CHOTINER (3/22/16): What has been your main takeaway from the media’s coverage of Trump thus far?Speaking of "bullshit," has the press been criticized for covering an incident where someone has been punched in the face?
OKRENT: To the degree that I’ve been thinking about how the media covers Trump, it’s really thinking about the criticism of the media for giving Trump so much space and time. There was a piece in the New York Times that came up with kind of a bullshit figure of the value of the free time that he’s gotten as being over $1 billion dollars. It’s an interesting phenomenon to point out, but I wouldn’t criticize the media for it, as a lot of people are. They are saying, you know, “Why are you spending so much time on this guy when there are substantive issues to talk about?” Tell me when he has a rally and somebody gets punched in the face for protesting that we shouldn’t cover that. Every time there’s another explosion, I’m wondering, how could you not cover it? He’s making news. The news media are not making the news; he’s making the news.
TV news orgs have been widely criticized for broadcasting Trump events, from beginning to end, when absolutely nothing of interest is happening. To what extent have orgs been criticized for covering a Trump rally after some violent act has occurred?
Not a whole lot, we'll guess. Even that can be overdone, of course, as the press corps is happy to show us.
In reaction to that first question, Okrent leaped to defend the press. Four questions later, he was finally able to make himself say this:
CHOTINER: So has there been anything that’s worried you as a media watcher and critic?Interviewers are letting Trump off the hook "way too easily?" We agree with that completely! Still and all, would you mind riddling this? Why wouldn't that have been the obvious answer to the first question Chotiner asked?
OKRENT: Yeah. I think they have been giving him interviews where they are letting him off the hook way too easily and not pinning him down.
In fairness, Okrent made some decent points along the way. He played Nestor to Chotiner's Diomedes as the youthful, impetuous scribe seemed to suggest that straight reporters should drop an array of name-calling bombs on the candidate's head.
Okrent talked the young scribe down on this point. But after that, he proceeded to fan on this ultimate softball question:
CHOTINER: If you were running a major news organization right now—People, there he went again! Basically, Okrent wasn't able to say how he would improve the coverage of Candidate Trump.
OKRENT: And thank God I’m not.
CHOTINER: Would you try to cover Trump differently?
OKRENT: I pretty much rely on the New York Times and online stuff from a variety of places. I have not been disappointed by the Times’ coverage, but I think at times it has been a little specious in terms of digging up things from Trump’s past. But the Times is specious like that about all political candidates, in terms of digging up stuff someone did as a teenager. Do you really need to tell me what he did in some negotiation in 1987? Or is that a waste of newsprint? I don’t know.
(His one complaint about the way the Times has covered Trump? Good God! He says the Times has sometimes dug up "specious" stuff from the candidate's past! That's his one complaint!)
We're sure that Okrent is the world's nicest person. In our view, most people are.
That said, we're also inclined to say this: no one exudes the elite, Manhattan insider-y view quite the way Okrent does.
Chotiner asked Okrent to explain how he would improve the coverage of Trump. Essentially, "as a media watcher," Okrent had nothing to offer.
We knew what our reply would have been! Incomparably, in deathless prose, we'll name that tune tomorrow.