Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Bill Keller Really Shouldn't Be Drinking Rolling Rock At The 10:00 A.M. Editors' Meeting.

NYT Executive Editor Bill Keller has just posted this bizarre attempt at humor in response to reader Devin Banerjee's serious question on the "Talk To The Newsroom" web feature this afternoon:

Q. I think a lot of young journalists and editors, myself included, are curious about what a day in the shoes of Bill Keller is like. Can you walk us through a normal work day for The Times's executive editor?
— Devin Banerjee, Stanford, Calif.

A. Really? You'd be interested in that? Well, I think my life is pretty much what you would imagine it to be.

I wake up most mornings to the telephone, invariably some world leader or international celebrity seeking my counsel. Lately it's been a lot of President Obama — again with the damn puppy? — but sometimes it's Richard Holbrooke to pick my brain about Afghanistan, or Bruce Springsteen asking if it isn't time for another Arts and Leisure cover story about Bruce Springsteen. The valet brings breakfast with the handful of newspapers that have not gone out of business. In the limo on the way to the office, I help Warren Buffett sort out his portfolio and give trading advice to George Steinbrenner, not that he ever listens.

At the office, Arthur Sulzberger Jr. and I have our morning conference call with Vladimir Putin, Hugo Chavez, Kim Jong-il and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad — plus Fidel Castro when he's compos mentis. Dictating the world's agenda entails a lot of conference calls. I've been encouraging the cabal to save some money by using iChat, but first we have to persuade Putin to wear a shirt.

Lunch at the Four Seasons is always a high point. Today it's my weekly tête-à-tête with Bill O'Reilly. He's really not the Neanderthal blowhard he plays on TV. He's totally in on the joke. After a couple of cosmopolitans, he does a wicked impression of Ann Coulter. We usually spend the lunch working up outlandish things he can say about The New York Times and making fun of Fox executives. (Once Rupert Murdoch showed up for a lunch date, and O'Reilly had to hide under the table for half an hour.)

I spend most of the afternoon writing all the stories for the front page. (You knew those were all pseudonyms, right?) I write Tom Friedman's column, too, but, I swear, Bill Kristol wrote all his own stuff.

By then it's time for drinks and dinner. If you're reading this, Julian, I think the duck tonight. I had the foie gras for lunch. And no time for dessert. The Secretary of State is coming by to give me a back rub.

[UPDATE: With the next "Talk To The Newsroom" question, about the expansion of the NYT index, Keller really starts to loosen up and let the comedy fly:

Reading over my previous answer, I recognize that it ill behooves the executive editor to attempt satire this early in the week. Friday, maybe Thursday, and only during Happy Hour. So let's get this trolley back on the sober track. What'll it be? The Middle East? Not yet. Liberal bias? Oh, please! The index? Now you're talking!

It's only Tuesday, folks. This is going to be fun.]

[ANOTHER UPDATE: The Nytpicker contacted Devin Banerjee, who asked Keller the question about how he spends his day, to see what he thought of the editor's comedy skills. Turns out Banerjee goes to Stanford and works as deputy editor of the Stanford Daily -- and surprisingly enough, the future NYT job applicant had only flattering things to say to the Nytpicker about Keller:

I was both surprised and entertained by Keller's response -- surprised because my question was entirely serious, and entertained because I did think his response was pretty funny. I always knew Keller had a great sense of humor, but I was expecting him to perhaps begin the response with something satirical and then actually address my question. I guess not. Based on the response to the question following mine, though, I think he has recognized that his response was not one readers were expecting: "Reading over my previous answer, I recognize that it ill behooves the executive editor to attempt satire this early in the week." Anyway, I'll be meeting him in early April at an event for The Stanford Daily, so rest assured that I'll get my response!

Brilliantly played, Banerjee. And remember, for that April meeting: Rolling Rock is the executive editor's brew of choice. Having a case on ice wouldn't hurt.]


Anonymous said...

I'm sorry, what? Bizarre attempt at humor? That was hilarious. Surprisingly funny given who is answering the question.

Anonymous said...

What are you guys talking about?! Bill Keller has always been funny.

Anonymous said...

I enjoyed it too. Go Bill!

Anonymous said...

Do you have permission to use that photo? Is it yours?