On June 22, the Times public editor Clark Hoyt had a few words for the Times’ Maureen Dowd for several primary-season columns that disparaged Hillary Clinton. “Even [Ms. Dowd], I think, by assailing Clinton in gender-heavy terms in column after column, went over the top this election season.”
So two days ago, current Op-Ed columnist (and former editorial page editor) Gail Collins wrote into Mr. Hoyt’s reader’s response column to respond: “When the public editor laces into an opinion page columnist for making fun of a controversial political figure, it sounds like a suggestion that all of us tone things down. I hope I’m hearing wrong.”
So was he telling them to tone it down?
“No,” he said to Media Mob. “It was a comment on a single aspect of a columnist’s work from a columnist I greatly admire. It was not a message for other columnists to tone it down. If I had meant to say that I would have said it directly.”
Then what was the point of Mr. Hoyt’s column in the first place: to express frustration over Ms. Dowd’s specific opinions about Mrs. Clinton? Or for the public editor to muse about the role of a columnist more generally?
“I was dealing with a set of columns and the language in them,” he said. “I think it is the public editor’s role to comment on Op-Ed columns when there is either an issue of fact, which there wasn’t in this case, or an issue of tone, which I think there was in this case. It’s not about the opinions expressed. The language in this line of columns was over the top, it was repetitive and it was relentless.”