Keller Speaks on Newspaper Crisis

Bill Keller spoke in England earlier this week about the sad state of the American newspaper business. Topics included the "acid rain" of criticisms heaped upon The New York Times, the "press-phobic" Bush administration, and the newpaper-eating internet.

"Most of the blog world does not even attempt to report," Mr. Keller said. "It recycles. It riffs on the news. That’s not bad. Its just not enough. Not nearly enough."

Several times during Mr. Keller’s tenure as executive editor, The Times has found itself in the position of taking on the White House. "Much of my time in the past few years has been consumed explaining why the founding fathers entrusted someone like me with the right to defy the president," he said.

And he also described the beefed-up nytimes.com:

Two years ago we began merging the staff of our website, who are mostly young and mostly not raised in the church of mainstream journalism, into the newsroom of ageing, technologically challenged hacks like myself. I won’t pretend this has been a marriage entirely free of quarrels and misunderstandings, but with some counselling the newlyweds have discovered a bedrock of common interest and mutual respect. The collaboration of high journalistic standards and engineering proficiency has produced quite an explosion of creative energy.

Times Company props: He quoted David Carr at one point — "As our media columnist David Carr once wrote: leaks tend to affect ships that aren’t seaworthy to begin with"; Tom Friedman got a mention, when Mr. Keller explained that he doesn’t tamper with op-ed columns; and Mr. Keller’s boss, Arthur Sulzberger Jr. was mentioned twice, once by name:

"I work for a news organization that is protected from the worst panics of our business–in our case, not by a trust but by a family of proprietors with a rare sense of civic responsibility…"

And: "I’ve sat in the company of an angry president myself, and I can tell you that it was awfully comforting to have a Sulzberger sitting beside me and The New York Times standing behind me."