The New York Times’s fine public editor, Margaret Sullivan, yesterday finally took up the simmering-for-days issue of that Michael Kinsley review of Glenn Greenwald’s new book in a online column. Beyond the broad criticisms of the book by Kinsley that apply to other investigative journalists, the piece drew hard questions because of the choice of the (allegedly biased) reviewer, based on his track record. Greenwald raised all those issues, and more, in a lengthy rejoinder.
Sullivan got this weak response when she queried the recently appointed Book Review editor: “I think this is one of those subjects that people have strong feelings about, and there are obviously entrenched interests on either side…. It is a smart, lively, well-written review that took a point of view about the book and the subject matter.”
Responding, Sullivan, on the other hand, hit the weak editing of the review, calling it neither “fair” nor “accurate.”
Book reviews are opinion pieces and—thanks to the principles of the First Amendment—Mr. Kinsley is certainly entitled to freely air his views. But there’s a lot about this piece that is unworthy of the Book Review’s high standards, the sneering tone about Mr. Greenwald, for example; he is called a “go-between” instead of a journalist and is described as a “self-righteous sourpuss.” …
But worse, Mr. Kinsley’s central argument ignores important tenets of American governance. There clearly is a special role for the press in America’s democracy; the Founders explicitly intended the press to be a crucial check on the power of the federal government, and the United States courts have consistently backed up that role. It’s wrong to deny that role, and editors should not have allowed such a denial to stand. Mr. Kinsley’s argument is particularly strange to see advanced in the paper that heroically published the Pentagon Papers, and many of the Snowden revelations as well.
Now, let the battle begin (or continue): Andrew Sullivan hits the female Sullivan here. We will resist the word “sully.” Stay tuned for more responses.