Reviewer: NYT Public Editor Misunderstood My Greenwald Review

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Thursday, 29 May 2014 07:06 AM

By Elliot Jager

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Michael Kinsley vehemently defended his New York Times review of Glenn Greenwald's book about Edward Snowden against criticism from the newspaper's public editor, Mediaite reported.

The editor, Margaret Sullivan, wrote that the review— which is to appear in the June 8 print edition but is already online — 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.'"

She also took Book Review editor Pamela Paul to task for not taking a heavier hand to the review and for not deleting "ad hominem language" and characterizations of Greenwald that Sullivan felt were "unfair."

Foremost, Sullivan disagreed with Kinsley premise that "while there are laws against government eavesdropping …there are [also] laws against leaking official government documents." To her mind, his claim that, "You can't just choose the laws you like and ignore the ones you don't like," implied that reporters "should simply defer" to government in deciding which documents should be made public.

Kinsley fired back at Sullivan beginning by asking: "Who will protect the public from the public editor?" He said he obviously didn't think journalists "should simply defer" to authorities. His review made clear that "government sometimes has legitimate reasons for needing secrecy but 'will usually be overprotective' so the process of decision 'should openly tilt in favor of publication with minimal delay.'"

He added: "Sullivan accuses me of a 'sneering tone' because, among other reasons, I call Mr. Greenwald 'a go-between.' I assure her that I can sneer a lot worse than that if called upon to do so. She adds, bizarrely, 'instead of a journalist.' This, although I specifically say, and even dwell on the point, that Mr. Greenwald is as entitled as anyone else to call himself a journalist…"

Kinsley concluded: "Sullivan says my review is 'unworthy of the Book Review's high standards.' That is meant to sting, and it does. You might even call it a sneer, if the public editor weren't above such things."

Sullivan's views as public editor are her own and as an ombudsman she serves independently of the newspaper's other editors, according to the Times.

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