Campaign watch: Okrent can't say how he'd cover Trump!


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?

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.
Speaking of "bullshit," has the press been criticized for covering an incident where someone has been punched in the face?

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?

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.
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?

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—

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.
People, there he went again! Basically, Okrent wasn't able to say how he would improve the coverage of Candidate Trump.

(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.


  1. The Times and the rest of the liberal media have long given disproportionate coverage to two types of Republicans:

    1. Those who embarrass Republicans in general by being boors or ignorant or racist.

    2. Those who criticize other Republicans.

    Trump displayed all of these qualities. Hence he got so much media coverage, no other Republican candidate could catch him.

    1. I think it's a shame that butthurt wingbats are victimized.

    2. @David: Trump is embarrassing Republicans? He's winning their primary.

    3. So what is David saying here? That Republican voters are mere sheep following whoever "liberal media" decides to cover?

      Sorry David. Republicans had their choice of among what? 16 candidates? They are choosing Trump. Overwhelmingly.

      In other words, he's not a creation of the "liberal media". He is quite the creation of the Republican Party itself.

      Own it. For once in your life, take responsibility for what your own party is doing to itself, and to the country in the process.

    4. Anon 3:43 -- I didn't mean to assign blame. I just offered some reasons why I think Trump got lots of media coverage.

      In terms of blame or responsibility, sad to say I credit Trump with running an effective campaign. In particular, he was clever enough to behave in a way that got him lots of coverage.

      I do blame the Republican establishment, to some degree. IMHO their flaws go back to opposing and unfairly denigrating the Tea Party movement. The Republican establishment misread the Republican voters of 2016 and wasted huge amounts of money on candidates with no hope. It's believed by some that the Republican establishment would rather lose the 2016 election than lose their hold on the Republican Party, by winning with Trump or Cruz.

  2. "Former President Bill Clinton slammed what he called the "awful legacy of the last eight years" during a campaign appearance for his wife, Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton, in Washington state Monday"

    "If you believe we’ve finally come to the point where we can put the awful legacy of the last eight years behind us and the seven years before that when we were practicing trickle-down economics and no regulation in Washington, which is what caused the crash, then you should vote for her." Former POTUS WJC March 21, 2016

    1. "Many troll accounts emanate from Russia's most famous "troll factory," the Internet Research center, an unassuming building on St. Petersburg's Savushkina Street, which runs on a 24-hour cycle. In recent weeks, former employees have come forward to talk about life inside the factory, where hundreds of people work grinding, 12-hour shifts in exchange for 40,000 rubles ($700) a month or more."

    2. @Horace

      Where is the dishonesty and/or foolishness in quoting Clinton's appraisal of the Obama Administration?

    3. "Where is the dishonesty and/or foolishness ...?"

      Savushkina Street, comrade.

  3. In our view, it is the "tomorrow" Bob spoke of in the above post. That said, we look forward to some deathless prose. Incomparably.

  4. On ESPN's 30 for 30, Okrent was dismayed that "all the best journalists in the country" got behind the Duke Lacrosse lie. No, if they were the best journalists in the country, they wouldn't have gotten behind it with ZERO evidence. Okrent, like most including most of Bob's critics, conflates terrible journalists employed by the most financially successful outlets with "the best journalists."

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