Unfriendly friendo: “I figured I’d clarify the situation on that recent French Connection piece that you’re so riled about. The one written by the N.Y. Times Magazine‘s Neila Orr, I mean.

“First off, the New York Times Magazine operates from a completely different staff than the daily paper does. One hand is never informed as to what the other is doing. Given the writer is a story editor on the magazine, it’s likely that she just decided to write it up herself.

“Second, the front-of-the-book rubric under which the piece appears, “Screenland,” is strictly an opinion (or wankery) column. It’s not reported as such. It’s just a given writer going off. So the author can’t be faulted for not doing reporting; it’s not a reported column — it’s a thumbsucker. You’re asking something of it that it doesn’t have to be. It’s an op-ed and it’s written as such. I didn’t find Orr’s piece particularly satisfactory, but that’s the way it is.”

HE replies: “Nonetheless Orr, cautiously assigned to write about the the French Connection censorship for an obvious reason, was writing a piece about a still-unsolved and mystifying situation, and she didn’t even attempt the boilerplate option of asking for explanations from Friedkin and Disney. I’m sorry but that’s stunning. How long does it take to make a couple of calls or bang out a couple of emails? What, she couldn’t be bothered?

“Imagine a Times staffer writing a thoughtful essay about the recent disappearance of Amelia Earhart in, say, early August 1937, or only a few weeks after Earhart’s plane was reported missing on 7.2.37. Imagine a Times staffer not even inquiring about the latest findings while putting the piece together.

“As a representative of The N.Y. Times, Orr would have obviously been able to request statements or perhaps even land an interview or two — a request that may have actually elicited a response, given the Paper of Record’s lordly history and cultural standing.

“And yet Orr chose not to go there because…what’s the explanation again? Because she and her editors live inside an elite, cloistered, administrative membrane (i.e., the Times‘ weekly magazine) that apparently derives satisfaction and solace from, among other things, turning off the curiosity switch.

“But hey, at least she was able to exercise her authority (by way of identity and birthright) by typing out the actual N-word. Impressive! I’m sure this got the attention of Donald G. McNeil Jr., who was almost certainly amused.”