Bill Keller Had ‘No Notion’ That He Would File from Iran

A few months ago, we were curious about all the editors’ bylines we were seeing everywhere: Meacham, with his name in Newsweek and his Pulitzer Prize-winning book; Stengel and his books; Remnick and his long stories and book deal; and Bill Keller, who had two bylines in one weekend!

And then Mr. Keller started filing from Tehran! Much has been made of Mr. Keller’s byline this week, but we still didn’t understand why he was doing it.

So we asked him. He wrote back saying that he just wanted to visit Tehran to understand the “nuances” of Iran; he had no intention of writing, until the world events just made him do it.

“I think it’s important for editors to travel with correspondents from time to time,” he said. “There’s no better way to appreciate the nuances and texture of a story. (As a correspondent I always welcomed visits from editors because it made it easier to sell my stories.) I planned the Iran trip a few months ago with no notion of writing. But the story exploded and there was plenty of it to go around. It was all hands on deck time.”

He also wrote into Joe Strupp to say that he doesn’t quite understand why there would be any complaints about him writing!

Do people in the media crit game really think editors are supposed to be desk jockeys who never go get a sense of the story? (When I was a correspondent I had visits from Max Frankel and Joe Lelyveld, among others, and welcomed them as a chance to share my enthusiasm for the beats I covered.) Or is the idea that when a big, exhausting news breaks visiting editors should hole up in the hotel and let the reporters do all the work? Weird.

We suppose that’s up to the editor.


Bill Keller Had ‘No Notion’ That He Would File from Iran