It's cruel. It's unusual. And--now as then--it is justified:
Felix Salmon: Bill Keller’s blind spots: Bill Keller, who proposes that Twitter makes you stupid and says that allowing a 13-year-old onto Facebook is like passing her a pipe of crystal meth, has responded to my last post about him in an email to Steve Myers:
Felix Salmon simply doesn’t know what he’s talking about. The Times takes care of its family — including our drivers, fixers and translators. We do not discuss the details of compensation (for anyone, including staff correspondents) but we fulfill our obligation to employees, including local hires, who are hurt or killed in the line of duty, and to their families in the case of death. (Yes, this includes Mohamed Shaglouf.)
Keller’s latest column, with its nostalgia for a time before slide rules and even the printing press, is an indication that he’s utterly incapable of leading a 21st-Century news organization into the future. But his email to Myers is an indication that he can’t even read. Let me try again... there is a huge debate raging in various social-media channels about the way that the NYT and other news organizations treat the local fixers who work for international reporters and photographers; Myers does a great job reporting on that debate. Keller wrote a column on the subject of wartime photographers right as the debate was raging. And in that column, he didn’t mention the debate at all; didn’t address any of the issues surrounding it; and didn’t even name a single one of those drivers, fixers and translators. The NYT is being accused of acting as though the local fixers are less important than its flown-in superstars; Keller, in this column, acted as though they simply didn’t exist....
[M]y point was never that the NYT didn’t compensate the families of local fixers.... [It] is that Keller, when writing about the human cost of war reporting in the NYT Magazine, completely ignored those fixers. That’s what I was talking about. And all I needed to do to know it was read his column.
Why oh why can't we have a better press corps?