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Bill Keller's writerly ambitions have come crashing to the ground, after he announced today that his column in the New York Times Magazine will end in September. He'll have written only twelve of the projected thirty columns. While Keller is claiming that he made the decision to step down himself, his writing garnered an avalanche of criticism and corrections (with errors in almost half his columns). Gawker called it "an institutional embarrassment."
It started with Arianna Huffington. Keller's column debuted in the first issue after the magazine's redesign. After defending the Times' new paywall, he took a few potshots at the Huffington Post — which, of course, then devolved into a petty squabble that made Arianna look like the grownup.
But the real low point of the run, was this column, where Bill Keller decided he really hated books, especially all the ones his friends and coworkers kept writing and giving him, the assholes:
But still the reporters — and editors, too — keep coming to sit in my office among the teetering stacks of Times-written books that I mean to read someday and to listen politely to my description of book-writing Gethsemane, and then they join the cliff-bound lemmings anyway.
It was strikes an odd tone for the defender of high-quality content and good writing to lash out at book writing. To direct it at the writers who were, just a few weeks earlier, his employees just seems weird, misguided, and petty — words that pretty much sum the whole thing up. And now it's over, leaving us to wonder: is this what the decline of the print industry is going to look like? Will the writing world be flooded with editors-turned-writers run amuck?