Sunday, May 10, 2009

NYT Political Reporter Michael Powell Calls The NYTPicker "Some Ivy League Pin Head."

In a comment this morning on yesterday's item about the NYT's coming "cash bar" party for its regional sections this Wednesday, top NYT political reporter Michael Powell has lashed out at The NYTPicker -- at one point referring to us as "some Ivy League pin head."

Powell levelled the attack in the course of pointing out that NYT regional editor Jennifer Preston is "one of the truly good people" at the NYT -- citing her editing skills, her recruitment of talented regional journalists, and her heritage as the daughter of working class Irish Boston parents.

It should be noted here that The NYTPicker made no criticism of Preston in our original post, except to raise a question about the idea of throwing a "cash bar" party for laid-off freelancers who can't really afford drinks at the moment -- especially at a party thrown by the paper that just laid them off. We didn't say anything much about Preston, except to cite her management training as a way to poke fun at her use of the word "folks" in addressing the invite.

In any case, Powell -- whose terrific essay on rootlessness in American politics we still remember vividly from last August -- has issued a stinging critique of The NYTPicker for its coverage of this little episode. Given Powell's stature at the NYT -- and the fact that he brings his own employer in for some criticism in making his point -- it seemed worth reprinting his comments in a post of its own.

And so, here follows the full text of Powell's comments, in two consecutive posts -- the second in response to our earlier post this morning about Jacob Harris's tweet:

Jennifer Preston is one of the truly good people at the New York Times, and has fought for her staff well at a time when the paper has decided to lance -- quite good -- regionals, even though they make money. She is an excellent editor who has fashioned the regionals into a shelter from the storm for many fine reporters from the Star Ledger, Hartford Courant and several other near-to-death newspapers.

She's also the daughter of working class Irish Boston parents and so comes by her skill with people rather naturally. I'm quite sure she is not in need of a snotty lecture on the use of "folks" from some Ivy League pin head. (Or perhaps you're not from the Ivy Leagues, or perhaps even if you are, a stupid generalization such as mine only goes so far, eh?)

It's unfortunate the NYT does not have the dough for the journalistic wakes, although as we've all just voted a five percent cut, that's probably in the nature of the straitened beast. It's also unfortunate that Jennifer lacks a trust fund, and so cannot buy endless rounds out of her pocket. But I imagine that she'll buy some and that a good time nonetheless will be had ...

She's been treating well those who work with her for decades. This was beneath you.


Now you've compounded cattiness with high-dosage disingenuousness. To argue that your post wasn't personal in light of the below is silly:

"By the way, Preston went to school to learn these awesome management techniques. "Here's an excerpt from her bio at the Columbia U. Graduate School of Journalism, where she currently teaches:

She has attended newsroom management and leadership programs at Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Management and Dartmouth's Tuck School of Business Administration."

Given these very tight times, a manager faces unpalatable choices. In this case, forgo the Irish Wake that traditionally accompanies the death of any newspaper or section (By the way, Jennifer worked at New York Newsday, a magnificent paper that folded one Friday afternoon in 1995, so really she needs no lectures in newspaper loss and uncertainty), or throw a party and have everyone buy a beer.

I don't doubt it's a horrible time to be a free-lancer. Nor do I doubt, from having observed in the newsroom, that Jennifer and Connie R. [Rosenblum, editor of the City Section] treated their charges with respect and kindness--and got great work back in return.

If you want to carp about the NYT refusing to spring for such parties, fine. Knock yourself out. But if you choose to go after the editor in question by snarking about a few lines from a Columbia J-School bio, well, you can't be surprised if this so called reporting is called to task.


Michael Powell


Brian O'Leary said...

Michael Powell makes a reasonable point - the target here is more appropriately the NYT and its apparent unwillingness to open the bar. I think you would have made a stronger point if you had focused on that.

Anonymous said...

An observer might point out that detractors of the post have fixated on the so-called attack on Ms. Preston rather than realize the point of the piece: no one cares whether it was she or Howdy Doody who sent out the memo, or paid for the drinks.

It's the general lameness of the party that offends, too much "we're only doing this because we think it proper."

It falls under the heading "Well, what did you expect?" Having already received the kiss-off, are freelancers waiting for their last check going to jump at the chance to drive in from the burbs at rush hour just to get their corsages and pecks on the cheek in some function room?

Anonymous said...

Only an Ivy League pinhead starts a sentence like this: "That an air of the enigmatic attends Barack Obama ..."

Michael Powell said...

Re: My own pinheadedness.

Nope. You can whack my writing all you want, but blame it on NYC public schools and a land grant college ...

Anonymous said...

Cornell is a land grant college.

And it costs more in tax to send your kids to Manhattan public schools than it does to pay the tuition at many Ivy League institutions. Shoot, it may cost more in taxes to live in many sections of Brooklyn today.

Just remember those kids in "Beverly Hills 90210" all went to a public high school and-- if I'm guessing correctly-- a state college.


Zippy the Pinhead said...

You can always tell a Harvard man, but you can't sell him mulch.