Wednesday, June 06, 2007

on lameness

Unlike with other papers in the region, the so-called JFK “terrorist plot” did not make the front page of the New York Times. In fact, it didn’t even make the first section—the Times decided to run it on the front of its Metro section (hey, that’s the front of something, ain’t it?). New York Times national editor Suzanne Daley, answering questions this week over at, took some heat from a hopped up public, no doubt jonesing during their commuter time for a little more “all hysteria, all fear, all the time” tabloid or tabloid television coverage.

In artfully defending the editorial decision made by the Times, Daley as convincingly denigrates the prosecutorial (and you can’t spell “prosecutorial” without “PR”) decision made by the government:

Here's the basic thinking on the J.F.K. story: In the years since 9/11, there have been quite a few interrupted terrorist plots. It now seems possible to exercise some judgment about their gravity. Not all plots are the same. In this case, law enforcement officials said that J.F.K. was never in immediate danger. The plotters had yet to lay out plans. They had no financing. Nor did they have any explosives. It is with all that in mind, that the editors in charge this weekend did not put this story on the front page.

In truth, the decision was widely debated even within this newsroom. At the front page meeting this morning, we took an informal poll and a few editors thought the story should have been more prominently played. Some argued it should have been fronted, regardless of the lameness of the plot, simply because it was what everyone was talking about.

And yes, I have mixed feelings about the introduction of “lameness” as used above into the officially sanctioned lingua franca of the Gray Lady, but when it is used to describe this “plot”—and so, by association, this episode in the Bush Administration’s “war on terror”—how can I do anything but heartily approve?

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