PUSHBACK – Resistance Is Futile But Anticipated

This is an introduction of sorts to a six-part series. A few years ago, I invited the New York Time’s first Ombudsman to my journalism ethics/responsibility class. That position, now occupied by Clark Hoyt, is primarily known now as the New York Times Public Editor. I’m speculating that the presence of a Public Editor is more preferable to Ombudsman which sounds akin to a lawman enforcing the law in a lawless community (at least, that’s how I imagine the NYT natives perceive the position when it was announced in the wake of the Jason Blair scandal and other journalistic ignominies which didn’t get as much attention but contributed to marring the public image of the Times).

Nevertheless, I was pleasantly surprised that Okrent accepted the offer, though it needs to be pointed out that there are a lot of high profile personalities and professionals who relish guest lecturing at Hunter, if asked, because of the College’s reputation for being a stellar higher ed institution. The invitation was extended even before the adulation in recent years about Hunter, the most ethnically diverse four-year college in the CUNY system, being a gem of an affordable public higher ed institution.

I did a two-day prep of the ethics/responsibility class: I wanted to make sure the students looked good and, of course, that the instructor looked good and the class was told, in so many words, that this impending moment should be regarded with pride for them (and I ignored the spectre of the D:F/M Hogoblin). I eventually announced Okrent’s scheduled Guest Lecture on the Hunter-L listserv (it was a boast as well as an attempt to prove a point) and wrote something like, QMfE, “It’s first come, first serve for visitors.”

One or two Hunter-L subscribers showed up. They would like the affair. I wouldn’t.

Okrent walked from his New York Times office (then on 43rd Street 7th Avenue then) and strolled into Hunter North 504 one afternoon. He looked professorial and was casually dressed. I introduced him. The class began. He was stellar before, during and after the class and clearly indicated that he was impressed with the students and pleased that he was invited. For me, the PUSHBACK was obvious but passively aggressive, the class insipidly lame, the students poorly prepared (and clearly exhibiting those signs of academic fatigue by not asking questions in general, looking bored with the one or two who did try to engage in a class discussion and other stuff that made me feel embarrassed for them as well as me. But Okrent would have nothing to do with that.).

And after the lameness swept over me, I had this thought: This will never happen again. This instructor will not allow lameness to be infused in his class.

End of Introduction

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