The New York Times recently ran a piece that compared Jon Stewart to Edward R. Murrow due to his advocacy of the Zadroga bill, which provided billions in much-needed funding for 9/11 first-responders. I’ve always thought Stewart has had more of an effect on our discourse than he himself will willingly admit, so I read the Times article was interest. Many others did too, but most commentators noted that the piece lacked the journalistic bite that usually accompanies a Times article of this sort. Why? Because Syracuse Professor Walter J. Thompson was quoted prominently.
What’s wrong with that? According to NYTPicker back in October, Thompson has been interviewed by 78 different Times reporters for 150 separate stories:
To these 78 NYT reporters, Thompson has offered a convenient shortcut past that necessary evil of journalism: the expert quote. Thompson’s superior ability to deliver short, pithy comments on a wide spectrum of topics, on deadline — along with his handy “professor” title — has made him indispensable to the hordes of NYT reporters who’ve desperately dialed him for that all-important dollop of hot air.
Referring to the new Times piece, The Observer puts it best: “The man’s brain waste literally becomes New York Times headlines! Oh to be a sophomore at Syracuse looking for a thesis advisor!”