Ah, for the days when people whose salaries we pay wouldn’t hide behind the Bush.

New York Times public editor Daniel Okrent is among those crusading for “senior officials” to come out from behind their cloak of anonymity. He has used his twice-monthly column in the Times to call on top newspaper editors to insist their reporters boycott background briefings, calling them “an affront to journalistic integrity and an insult to the citizenry.”

“At a time when news organizations have real credibility problems, to invite more by taking part in this charade is intellectually dishonest and cowardly,” Okrent said Tuesday.

He believes that if the AP and the “big five” newspapers in Washington – USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, The Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times — walk out of anonymous briefings, their use would diminish.

Slate’s media columnist Jack Shafer this week asked reporters who agree with Okrent to do something about it: “Drop me an e-mail every time an under-sub-deputy-director of flimflam convenes a background briefing,” Shafer wrote. “I’ll provide the creative destruction by publishing anonymice’s names in this column, thereby putting the briefings on the record.”