Monday, June 21, 2004

Shut Up, He Explained

Michael Kinsley, who has come in from the blogosphere for reasons known only to his banker and his social secretary to work as Editorial and Opinion Editor at the LA Times, says he spiked his first editorial because his conscience and then his colleagues told him not to run it.

Yes, it's true. I wrote the editorial then killed it myself. It was an attempt at ironic reflection on the Hollywood decapitation. My editorial page colleagues convinced me it was inappropriate as an editorial. I agonized quite a bit, although looking back the next day, it was a clear case of "what on earth was I thinking?"

A thought of my own: I wonder if Kinsley, gripped with uncertainty, did choose to circulate his column (about a decapitation? ugh!) among colleagues and boss? Or did someone spot it and red flag it, once it was in the newspaper's computer system and began to move through the standard editing process? As the cognoscenti know, blogs are an unedited medium unless stipulated otherwise and newspapers are an edited medium unless stipulated otherwise. The typical bit of newspaper copy, including columns and editorials, is whacked at by layers of editors and copy editors, and then -- once it's "pasted up" (I am a semi old-timer) and ready to go as the moment for the presses to roll approaches -- those staffers who are supposed to, and those who aren't, continue to look at a story. The eyes of the newsroom are upon it. Such scrutiny is built into newspapering, and it's built out of blogging. The newspaper writer has the burden and the benefit of knowing he/she will be second-guessed before whatever she/he writes -- even an opinion piece -- is in print. Probably this constrains the writer. I know it did me. But occasionally it can free the writer; that is, you think, "What the hell! If this is too coarse, too foolish, too damaging to my and the paper's reputation, someone will tell me." (And, of course, there's the practice of putting something in every story that you calculate the editor will take out because that's what editors like to do.)

To recapitulate: If I read that a blogger chose not to post something because he had second thoughts and thus showed the piece to others who confirmed his reservations, I would believe it. But when I hear the same thing from a newspaper editorial writer, I reserve judgment. Maybe someone grabbed the back of his swim trunks as he raced, mad with hubris, toward the diving board at the deep end of the pool.


G Pabst said...

Regarding your headline:

Do you remember Tom Swifties?

"Weight lifting? It's nothing to me! And I never get a hernia," Tom burst out.


....J.Michael Robertson said...

Or, "This has never happened to me before," Tom said limply.