Ken and Barbie

Yesterday morning, The New York Times ran one of those on-the-one-hand-on-the-other-hand articles meant to reinforce the idea that all human discourse finds its ultimate expression in its pages. The piece explored the “conflict issues” dogging Maclean’s effort to be an “impartial chronicler” of the Conrad Black trial, specifically its ongoing use of Barbara Amiel as a columnist, Mark Steyn as a blogger, and the appearance for the defence of editor-publisher Ken Whyte. The Times writer dug up a journalism ethics expert who assured us that:

“…[T]his situation was not unusual in the profession, and often drew criticism from non-journalists. ‘As an outsider what you see is a sort of incestuous relationship,’ she said. ‘People have jobs and relationships with each other, they have financial gains based on these relationships, they are all scratching each other’s backs under the guise of journalism.’ On the other hand, she said, these connections are sometimes unavoidable. ‘A lot of journalists marry other journalists, are children of other journalists, and it looks very suspicious to outsiders.’”

Imagine the horror—going through life as a “non-journalist,” or, more ominously, an “outsider.” What chance do you have of understanding the subtleties of Whyte’s careful parsing of the subjects of Amiel’s columns so as to avoid the appearance of impropriety:

“In an e-mail message, Mr. Whyte said that he had discussed the situation with Ms. Amiel and they agreed ‘she should avoid comment on the proceedings and the particulars of the case, but that she could on occasion write about her own experiences as the wife of a high-profile criminal defendant.’”

Thank God, because without Whyte’s efforts we might have forgone the following description of what it’s like to be “the wife of a high-profile defendant”:

“And what we are living through is not especially noteworthy on any scale of nightmares. I suppose it’s the process of being singled out that is often more frightening than the thing itself. A Holocaust survivor once explained to me that when Jews were being rounded up it was awful, but you were not in it alone. Your friends and family were in a similar situation—there was a sort of order. One was, so to speak, less traumatized belonging to a persecuted group than being the single elephant man, though being a member of a persecuted group could be far deadlier.”

Yet another sunlit moment in the annals of impartial chronicling.


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