You don't have a newspaper background. How does that affect your
perspective in this job?
Some internal critics here say I'm the wrong guy for the job
because I don't understand how daily newspapers work. I think,
contrarily, that because I don't understand, I can ask the "dumb"
questions someone with a lot of experience wouldn't ask. Those
things that are self-evident to those inside the profession are not
self-evident to me. On the other hand, I am a journalist, so it
isn't entirely alien to me.
Has the job been much like what you expected it would be, or
have there been some surprises?
When you go to the dentist for a root canal, you know it's going to
hurt. But when you're in the chair, the fact that you knew doesn't
help any. It still hurts. I told friends and relations that it
would be hard, that I would make a lot of enemies and be thrown
into public debates where I'd rather not be. It's better now, not
as tension inducing and sleep depriving as in the first few months.
But it's a very difficult position to be in.
Do some Times staffers see your existence as a reproach
Some. There are 1,100 people on the news staff, and their opinions
cover the entire spectrum. Some are opposed to me but think the
position should exist. Some are very positive about me but don't
think the position should exist. And there are some who don't like
me or the position. There's one ranking editor who's a
conscientious objector. He and I are very friendly; he professes to
think I'm an honest and fair person. But he believes the job
shouldn't exist, so he doesn't cooperate with me. If a complaint
comes from his area, he passes it on to a colleague who can handle
How do you pick your topics?