If you’ve ever thrown a newspaper or magazine to the ground, stomped on it and screamed, “Garbage!” then you know that “killing” a story isn’t the most heinous crime in the Western world. In fact, journalistic mercy killings sometimes make the world a better a place. But not always. Consider Killed: Great Journalism Too Hot to Print (Nation Books), editor David Wallis’ eminently readable compendium of journalistic malfeasance, ineptitude, jitters and dubious whims.
For instance, Wallis presents Betty Friedan’s “Are Women Wasting Their Time in College?” Spiked by McCall’s magazine in 1958, the wide-ranging critique of women’s societal roles was expanded and published five years later as The Feminine Mystique, still in print as a feminist classic. Some stories were apparently killed for fear of offending the powerful and/or litigious (including the Rev. Sun Myung Moon), several for questions of taste (including P.J. O’Rourke’s sarcastic take on the Lebanese civil war), others because a new editor couldn’t care less about a predecessor’s assignments, etc.
Vanity Fair, Rolling Stone, GQ and The New Yorker all make Wallis’ dishonor roll, as does The Detroit Free Press, which supplies the collection’s coda: Carlo Wolff’s review of Mitch Albom’s The Five People You Meet in Heaven, which was commissioned by a Freep editor and axed by Freep executive editor Carole Leigh Hutton. “How many ways can you define ‘superficial’?” began the Wolff piece. “I didn’t want to disparage a member of my staff like that,” said Hutton.
The review surfaced elsewhere, including in Metro Times, and, thanks to Wallis, will enjoy a shelf life far beyond what it would have had in the Freep in the first place.
Revisiting the tempest in the introduction to his piece, Wolff writes, “Hutton was in her rights as the paper’s mother hen, but she blew it as its leader. … Her protectiveness highlights a reflexive protectiveness all too common among made members of the journalistic Mafia.”
News Hits is tickled to share this with you — assuming this item isn’t killed.Contact News Hits at 313-202-8004 or NewsHits@metrotimes.com