December 5, 2003

No Great Publisher Goes Unpunished

Yesterday during a conversation with a friend I found myself saying that the really great publishers of the world have one thing in common: they know when to stop publishing this or that title.

I've worked for several publishers in what might be called 'my career' but is otherwise known as 'a job,' but I've never been fortunate enough to work for one that has that great trait. Usually, they just keep publishing like the drinking bird bobbing over the glass.

Lord Black, from all that I've known about him, is not one of the latter but one of the former. As such he is the natural enemy of journalists since that ragtag army of scribes depends on weak publishers to keep their checks flowing. The result is that, once the ragtags sense blood in these waters they just can't keep away. Hang around book and magazine publishing houses long enough and you'll learn that every single editor, writer and employee down to the guy who waters the plants knows more about publishing than the publisher. And they can be right, sometimes. But neither usually or nor frequently.

But when there's lots of blood in the water as there is with the Black embroglio, the urge to snap up great wads of chum cannot be resisted even by the best journalists. Reading the WSJ's hamhanded report on Black's troubles the other day, I couldn't help but think I was watching scavengers at work. This morning, R. Emmett Tyrrell, who has no little experience in these matters takes the same tone is looking at the Press pile-on in Black board Ado

"Hit 'em when they're down," is our motto. "Pile on," is our hearty exhortation. Who are we? We are the noble souls of the press. We are the self-described heroes, who write "history's first draft" as daily journalism is called. Yes, perhaps old Henry Ford had something when he described history as "bunk."

    I may write in newspapers every week -- when I am not writing in magazines or writing books -- but I am quite confident I am not a member of the press corps. I only "hit 'em" when they are standing and capable of hitting back. I would never "pile on."

    I avoid group things, and besides there is something cowardly about the journalists' feeding frenzy.

    Today the press is piling on in its coverage of the British and North American press tycoon Conrad Black. The journalists have found Mr. Black's disagreements with members of his boards at his Hollinger corporations have put him under scrutiny by government agencies, and so they "hit 'im while he's down."

It's the high and the mighty brought down theme, over and over again. You'd think that a business that spends so much time praising itself and so much effort constructing ethical microscopes to examine ever finer photos of its own navel lint would be able to construct a tale that moves upward instead of downward. You might think that, but, in the immortal words of Richard Nixon, "It would be WRONG."

Posted by Vanderleun at December 5, 2003 9:25 AM
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