The Other McCain

"One should either write ruthlessly what one believes to be the truth, or else shut up." — Arthur Koestler

Wow. This Almost Never Happens.

Posted on | May 8, 2012 | 6 Comments

Betsy Rothstein writes something I agree with:

Were these so-called practices ever thought out or spelled out in the first place? Was Riley ever told what she could or couldn’t write? Or was the outcry of online observers — and there are a lot of them these days with loud, shrill, threatening voices — so great that McMillen collapsed under her own lack of direction and standards that were never conveyed to Riley in the first place?

This is probably a sign that the Apocalypse is upon us. On the other hand, it could be that writers who frequently piss people off have a common perspective that transcends politics. That is to say, we expect our editors to be on our side in any conflict, even if it’s a conflict the editor might have preferred to avoid.

The way Liz McMillen threw Naomi Schaefer Riley to the wolves is one of those acts of craven spinelessness that make you shudder. Having been called on the carpet and read the Riot Act a few times in my career, I’m OK with getting chewed out if I screw up.

“Watch your step” or “Don’t ever let this happen again.” — that kind of warning might be appropriate. But to just suddenly dump a writer, the first time they piss somebody off? No, uh-uh.

This was my problem with the way Rich Lowry handled the situation with John Derbyshire, who for years had been allowed to write inflammatory stuff for other outlets until one day — bam! — suddenly it was a problem and Derb got fired. Was there no point in the preceding years where Lowry could have sat down with Derbyshire and had a little chat? “Hey, Derb, about this race stuff you’ve been writing . . .”

Anyway, last time I checked, Betsy Rothstein was still an Evil Left-Wing Bitch From Hell, but she’s absolutely right about this:

In most newsrooms editors fiercely protect their reporters. Most editors don’t let strangers in the door and watch as the reporter gets bloodied. Maybe McMillen could be a real editor, hold strong and “improve” their ways instead of essentially letting a wild flash mob determine Riley’s fate.

So either Rothstein’s evil is diminishing, or I’m getting soft in my old age, or else the ancient Mayans were right about 2012 being The End.

UPDATE: Ed Driscoll has been aggregating like a mofo on this story while filling in for Instapundit today, and links this item by Jonathan Tobin at Commentary:

McMillen’s note is doubly offensive because its characterization of Riley’s post is incorrect, and because she also chose to grovel to the mob by apologizing for a previous editor’s note in which she invited readers to debate the author’s opinion. Though she now says her previous note was wrong to “elevate Riley’s post to the level of informed opinion,” the only thing that is clear from reading her obsequious apology is that in allowing Riley’s critics to dictate editorial policy, she has debased the Chronicle and herself to a point where neither can be taken seriously.

Feeding the tiger, hoping to be eaten last. Elsewhere, the ubiquitous Driscoll calls our attention to James Taranto’s take at the WSJ: “A lesson from an editor in how not to do journalism.” Still further — again, following Driscoll — we have reactions from Jonathan Last at the Weekly Standard, Victor Davis Hanson at National Review and Ron Radosh at PJM.


6 Responses to “Wow. This Almost Never Happens.”

  1. Adobe_Walls
    May 8th, 2012 @ 7:37 pm

    I’m confidant we can rule out that whole Mayan 2012 thingy which is not to say we aren’t on the eve of destruction.

  2. Guest
    May 8th, 2012 @ 7:45 pm

    The Chronicle’s editor said the Riley piece “did not conform to the journalistic standards and civil tone that you expect from us.”

    Indeed. For a genuine example of the the Chronicle’s high standards and civil tone, see this post by their long-time blogger Gina Barreca:

  3. Datechguy's Blog » Blog Archive » Hey remember when the left was big into speaking truth to power… » Datechguy's Blog
    May 8th, 2012 @ 7:54 pm

    […] least one leftist does. Share this:PrintRedditDiggStumbleUponEmailFacebook opinions powered by […]

  4. Bob Belvedere
    May 8th, 2012 @ 8:04 pm

    And the lion shall lay down with the bitch lamb.

  5. Bob Belvedere
    May 8th, 2012 @ 8:07 pm

    Yup…high standards for first grade.

  6. Ric Locke
    May 9th, 2012 @ 12:55 am

    What we have here is a lynch mob.

    Even the participants of those granted grudging acknowledgement to the courage of those sheriffs and marshalls who protected their prisoners against the madness. Soap and towels for Ms. Pontius McMillen! And be sure the water’s warm!