So long Daniel Okrent. I can’t say I care. I never learned anything from his pieces, and I can’t say he did much to affect editorial decisions at the Times. His job seems to have been one of damage control — making the Times seem responsive, without really forcing it to respond to anything. But I am surprised that he chose to lash out at Paul Krugman with his parting shot. Mark Schmitt has done a pretty good job of summing up the spat between Okrent and Krguman:
This is mostly pretty arcane stuff, with Okrent accusing Krugman of manipulating numbers of discouraged unemployed workers because he failed to adjust them based on a 1995 research paper, etc. Trust me, Krugman wins every point.
As to why he didn’t raise any of these issues with Krugman before, Okrent says that he dealt with him on another issue, and basically Krugman was such a pain in the ass that “it wasn’t worth it.” What a bizarre admission: The whole job of the ombudsman or public editor or whatever the Times wants to call it is to be independent and invulnerable. He’s got a one-year contract that can’t be renewed; no editor or columnist can touch him. If he thinks a columnist is misusing data, his job is to say so.
According to Schmitt, it seems that Okrent was duped into being a shill for National Review Online blogger Donald Luskin. As a responsible journalist Okrent should have sought a second opinion on Luskin’s criticisms before going to press with them and then being forced to retract/reword his criticism.
The full exchange is here, and Brad deLong has some additional comments here.
UPDATE: Maybe the new guy will be better …