Editors in Cheat

Journalism – the J word – comes under a lot of fire these days. I’d argue “not deservedly so” if I thought everyone who criticizes it was talking about real journalism. Of course they are not. The critics of J (big or little) are mostly critical of “news” they disagree with. To dangle a … oh, never mind.

That brings me to this, here on my cruise-control across the South - Texas, Arkansas, Tennessee and Mississippi. Today I read a neat column in the Sunday 6.11.06 Arkansas Democrat Gazette, Little Rock’s mighty daily, in Section J, of all places.

The left-hand column on the front page of the “Perspective” section is written by a fellow named Paul Greenberg. The headline “Unedited” drew me in. I figgered (Southern talk) it must be about journalism.

Mr. Greenberg is a good writer as one would hope considering his placement in the paper. His subject was news editing, and he writes with both clarity and passion, two of my favorite writing virtues. The column was a riff on another journalist’s work, David Armstrong of The Wall Street Journal (my favorite newspaper) on yet another publication The New England Journal of Medicine.

If you care a whit about accuracy in journalism, try to read Paul Greenberg’s column (www.ardemgaz.com). If you can’t get to that, read the Wall Street Journal piece “How the New England Journal Missed Warning Signs on Vioxx,” 5.15.06 (www.wsj.com).

Greenberg’s point was that the editors of the N.E.J. of Medicine failed miserably and refuse to this day to acknowledge their failure.

Especially you should read these if you are among those whose trust in American journalism is wavering. There are still fully committed, dedicated, and principled people in the J biz who you can trust to tell the truth right down to the last paragraph. Which in the case of Greenberg’s column went like this:

“Moral of the story: There are editors good, bad and indifferent, but the most dangerous are the indifferent.”

Amen (Southern talk).

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