U.S.C.’s Annenberg School of Communication & Journalism Professor Marc Cooper recently criticized the New York Times for not running the Charlie Hebdo cartoons. The NY Times editor Dean Baquet responded on Facebook by calling Cooper an “asshole.”
I don’t know whether in fact Cooper is an “asshole,” but it wasn’t wise for Baquet to use language this coarse in a public forum. Baquet, by attacking Cooper so forcefully, emotionally and crudely, guaranteed that the response would be picked up and dissected by every journalism and media watchdog in the nation. And that’s exactly what happened. Now, Cooper’s criticism is getting even more of an airing than it would have otherwise. And Baquet looks hostile to criticism.
Here is the media training lesson: There are some things you can say in private, in person or over the phone to friends, family or debate partners, that just do not work and aren’t appropriate in a public forum.
Baquet’s point that there are surely many sides to the issue of whether a paper should run the cartoons is correct, but he obscures his point by sounding off-tone. If you are an independent blogger or a writer for Vice, then calling people an “asshole” may be practically required. But when you are the editor of the most prestigious and most influential newspaper in the world, calling somebody an asshole is seen as too extreme and beneath the dignity of one of the few media organizations left in the world with any dignity.
TJ Walker helps originations communicate more effectively during times of crisis. Please call him at 212.764.4955