New York Times executive editor Bill Keller revealed that his newspaper regularly receives offers of donations from its readers, who want to help it survive this financial and media crisis. Speaking at the opening ceremony of the Stanford student newspaper’s new building, he observed that not too many people are probably lining up to make the same kind of offer to rescue General Motors, the ailing auto company. “Saving the New York Times now ranks with saving Darfur as a high-minded cause,” he explained.
Of course, media commentators like Keith Kelly, Gawker, and the Silicon Alley Insider were quick to jump on and attack the remarks, calling them “bombastic,” “absurdly pompous,” and taking “this sense-of-self to a whole new level.” But to be perfectly fair, Keller was only talking about the surprising lengths to which the paper’s educated readers would go to help out. The editor of our nation’s paper of record obviously does not think that the crisis at his company is equal to the death of hundreds of thousands of people in Africa. It wasn’t the best choice of language, sure. But there’s a reason why some people speak on television for a living, and some people work with words on the printed page.