Todays Wall Street Journal has a front page article on David Okrent, the “public editor” at the New York Times who is trying to put his finger in the dike of the NY Times draining credibility. However, unless the WSJ reporter got the story completely wrong, the effort is doomed to failure.
The central point that the NY Times senior editors seem to worry about is the Jayson Blair affair, whereby Blair fabricated many stories and published them. Focusing on this means missing most of the reasons the NY Times is considered by many to be only slightly more reliable than the World Weekly News.
There is no indication that any of the hiring and promotion practices that kept Blair moving up the chain have been changed or even examined. Instead, Okrent was put in to try to clean up the mess after the fact for some future reporter. Most likely Okrent will simply end up publicisizing future problems.
The biggest problem, though, is how Blair got away with stories that misquoted so many people without complaints. It appears that people noticed but saw no point in telling the NY Times about it.
Finally, if one cruise the blogosphere for tirades about the NY Times, one finds that Blair constitutes but a tiny fraction of the issues people have. Certainly the SmarterTimes website had plenty of material without Blair. For an alledged investigative organization, the NY Times seems quite lost without a clue when looking in to itself.