What’s it really like to head up a world class news organization? The New York Times’ Bill Keller shares with readers the loneliness of command:
Q. I think a lot of young journalists and editors, myself included, are curious about what a day in the shoes of Bill Keller is like. Can you walk us through a normal work day for The Times’s executive editor?
— Devin Banerjee, Stanford, Calif.
A. Really? You’d be interested in that? Well, I think my life is pretty much what you would imagine it to be.
I wake up most mornings to the telephone, invariably some world leader or international celebrity seeking my counsel. Lately it’s been a lot of President Obama — again with the damn puppy? — but sometimes it’s Richard Holbrooke to pick my brain about Afghanistan, or Bruce Springsteen asking if it isn’t time for another Arts and Leisure cover story about Bruce Springsteen. The valet brings breakfast with the handful of newspapers that have not gone out of business. In the limo on the way to the office, I help Warren Buffett sort out his portfolio and give trading advice to George Steinbrenner, not that he ever listens.
At the office, Arthur Sulzberger Jr. and I have our morning conference call with Vladimir Putin, Hugo Chavez, Kim Jong-il and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad — plus Fidel Castro when he’s compos mentis. Dictating the world’s agenda entails a lot of conference calls. I’ve been encouraging the cabal to save some money by using iChat, but first we have to persuade Putin to wear a shirt.
Lunch at the Four Seasons is always a high point. Today it’s my weekly tête-à-tête with Bill O’Reilly. He’s really not the Neanderthal blowhard he plays on TV. He’s totally in on the joke. After a couple of cosmopolitans, he does a wicked impression of Ann Coulter. We usually spend the lunch working up outlandish things he can say about the New York Times and making fun of Fox executives. (Once Rupert Murdoch showed up for a lunch date, and O’Reilly had to hide under the table for half an hour.)
I spend most of the afternoon writing all the stories for the front page. (You knew those were all pseudonyms, right?) I write Tom Friedman’s column, too, but, I swear, Bill Kristol wrote all his own stuff.
By then it’s time for drinks and dinner. If you’re reading this, Julian, I think the duck tonight. I had the foie gras for lunch. And no time for dessert. The Secretary of State is coming by to give me a back rub.