You mentioned how much people like to throw stones at The New York Times. Some in the right-wing online media have actually done just that wit your budget report, writing that your coverage was a little rosy.

They usually write to me too, to let me know. There are some days when I cannot open my reader e-mail not just because I am too busy but also because I’m just not in a psychological state to take some of the nastiness that you get.

I feel like I’m balanced. I don’t do anything at The New York Times that I didn’t do at The Wall Street Journal. I just do journalism. I get critics from the left too. If people are going to look at my stories through the ideological glasses they bring to it, they’re likely to be disappointed, because it’s my job to go down the middle.

You’re still a strong believer in that middle ground, even as it’s being challenged by online media and cable news?

I think about what I would want. I grew up in Toledo, Ohio, and my first jobs were in west Texas, and I was hungry for news that played it straight and gave me both sides. If I were someone who’s not in the thick of it, as I am, I would want to know facts and context in a way that helps me make my decisions. I think there are a lot of people who feel that way. Every time I feel a little tired of covering the budget, I tell myself that I write to people who truly want to know what the situation is and what it is that’s driving these deficits and what each side is proposing to do about it.

Speaking of a middle ground, at yesterday’s presser you asked the president why he hadn’t sat down with the Republicans. He gave you a pretty pat answer about what’s going on behind the scenes and being encouraged by the GOP response so far. Were you satisfied with that answer?

It wasn’t for me to be satisfied and he gave me pretty much the answer I expected. But it was good to get his perspective. It helped because until he spoke yesterday, all I had to go on what he was thinking, was what officials or what people close to the White House were saying. It never hurts to hear from the president even if you’re not getting the most candid answer he could give you.

Joel Meares is a former CJR assistant editor.