Lemann on O’Reilly

Nick Lemann has 4,685

words on Bill O’Reilly in this week’s New Yorker. At no point is the article

presented as a profile, but that’s how it reads. Until you reach the end and

you realise that although Lemann has quoted O’Reilly a lot, it’s always cited:

it’s a quotation from a book or a transcript. The absence of any visible first-hand

reporting is striking.

Lemann does note near the beginning of the piece that O’Reilly

has called on his audience to shun several news organizations, including

The New Yorker—whose specific sin was questioning the assertion, repeated

frequently on “The O’Reilly Factor” during December, that

the country is in the grip of a “war on Christmas.”

Would it have been too much to add, at that point, that O’Reilly therefore

refused to talk to Lemann for this article? As it stands, we don’t know what

happened: it’s possible that Lemann asked for an interview and was turned down.

It’s also possible that he asked for an interview but O’Reilly talked to him

only off the record. It’s also possible that he asked for an interview, spoke

to O’Reilly briefly, and got nothing worth quoting directly. It’s even possible

that Lemann, approaching the article less as a profile and more in the spirit

of media criticism, didn’t ask for an interview at all. But a full explanation

of what happened would have been worthwhile, I think, if only in the interests

of full disclosure.

Normally, I wouldn’t bother making such a minor quibble, but Lemann is dean

of the J-School at Columbia. One holds him to a higher standard.

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One Response to Lemann on O’Reilly

  1. David Sucher says:

    Just a general comment: you are blogging some terrifc stuff.


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