Byron (his friends call him Barney) Calame is the “public editor” of The New York Times, the second such since the position was established in 2003, and he may be the last:
“Over the next couple of months, as Barney’s term enters the home stretch, I’ll be taking soundings from the staff, talking it over with the masthead, and consulting with Arthur,” meaning publisher Arthur O. Sulzberger Jr., wrote Bill Keller, The Times’ executive editor, in an e-mail to The Observer.
Mr. Keller wrote in his e-mail that “some of my colleagues believe the greater accessibility afforded by features like ‘Talk to the Newsroom’ has diminished the need for an autonomous ombudsman, or at least has opened the way for a somewhat different definition of the job.”
Daniel Okrent, first Times public editor, said he “would be disappointed to see [the position] eliminated.”
This detail in the Observer piece caught Brendan Nyhan’s eye:
Mr. Okrent was a sharp critic who raised hackles and then won respect during his 18-month term. In contrast, Mr. Calame has been a bit more like that other Barney, the friendly purple dinosaur — and not entirely unlike Snuffleupagus, the once-invisible creature of Sesame Street. The readers were Big Bird, and we could see and hear him — but did he exist to anyone inside The Times?
To which Nyhan responds:
[T]his is a whole new style of media criticism. Coming next week: Is Maureen Dowd more like Miss Piggy or Dora the Explorer?
Short answer: yes.
Actually, I think Maureen Dowd is the secret child of Disney’s Kim Possible and Ron Stoppable, and whatever Type A personality traits she may have inherited from Kim are offset by Ron’s intractable B-ness. Besides, Ron is sweet and goofy, and God forbid Maureen should ever show such a side.