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 to them?
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 it.
How do you pick your topics?