Killed: Great Journalism Too Hot to Print
Killed resurrects remarkable articles that prestigious publications such as The New Yorker, the New York Times Magazine, Harper’s, and Rolling Stone assigned to accomplished writers for sizeable fees, then discarded for reasons having nothing to do with their quality and everything to do with their potential for unwanted controversy, political incorrectness, or undue pressure from an advertiser. Read for the first time Mike Sager’s profile of Palestinian militants involved in the intifada of 1987 that was killed by the Washington Post Magazine because his story did not side with Israel, and Ted Rall’s essay on his deadbeat dad that was deemed too dark by the New York Times Magazine for its Father’s Day issue. While the notion of a killed article is nothing new, the breakneck pace of media consolidation has raised the stakes for contrarian writers and readers as independent publishers dwindle. Killed arises out of this moment, bringing these outstanding pieces of censored journalism into the public arena for the first time. Some of the other contributors included are Rich Cohen, Daniel Asa Rose, Alec Wilkinson, Noam Chomsky, Douglas Rushkoff, Pat Jordan, Robert Fisk, Clive Thompson, Silvana Paternostro, Glenn O’Brien, Christopher Hitchens, Gore Vidal, and Luc Sante.
- Paperback: 336 pages
- ISBN-10: 1560255811
From Publishers Weekly
Editor Wallis calls this anthology “a kind of literary orphanage… that rescues remarkable stories that editors commissioned, then abandoned.” Magazines drop articles for various reasons, but these selections were killed either because they might have attracted expensive lawsuits, or they offended a magazine’s advertisers or editors. Since revealing such censorship is this collection’s goal, a brief history and cause of death precedes each article. The collection begins with a 1942 book review by George Orwell (killed by the Observer), an early feminist piece (1958) by Betty Friedan killed by McCall’s and a 1963 discourse by Terry Southern (killed by Esquire) on Doctor Strangelove. Then, the compilation moves forward into the past two decades. There are articles about health problems from smoking, bias in the coverage of Palestinian struggles and violations of child labor law—all reminders of the many articles on these subjects that haven’t seen print. Most memorable, however, are the in-depth exposés, like Ann Louise Bardach’s piece on Reverend Moon or Jon Entine’s on Anita Roddick and the Body Shop. These articles not only provide solid, usable research on their subjects, but stand as models of investigative journalism. The volume as a whole reminds readers that even apparently “nonpolitical” magazines like GQ and Vanity Fair often censor writers to protect their bottom line. This is a provocative compilation for journalism students and fun reading for leftist intellectuals.
On the surface of it, Killed: Great Journalism Too Hot to Print is a good idea. You can tell a lot about a culture by looking at what it isn’t allowed to read, but who made David Wallis God?
The fact that most national and international magazines are owned by corporations which have agendas of their own is true, and very possibly damaging to the objectivity of the editorial policy of the publications so owned, but who made David Wallis an objective observer all of a sudden?
Who says any writing is, or even can be, objective? Who annointed David Wallis to determine what is great journalism anyway? What’s to say his selection process is any less biased by the forces that have made him than the editor who initially rejected the pieces he features in his book?
I think that David Wallis has done the world a service by pointing out some of these overlooked articles, but there is a kind of autocracy in his approach to this subject which he is unwilling to admit.
After a recent lecture, I asked Mr. Wallis if he honestly thought press censorship today is actually worse than when the robber barron William Randolph Hearst used his iron hand to crush reporters who did not agree with him. Wallis just reiterated that grave offenses had been committed today.
In the 1830s and 40s in America you’d buy the newspaper you wanted according to what spin you wanted on your news. It may be a little more subtle now, but people will be people and there’s no avoiding that. Virtually all publications have a known bias, and we all manage to find the point of view we want to read in our magazines and newspapers. We know the rules.
In this book, David Wallis seems to be making a plea for something that is not humanly possible, and he fails to understand that he is human too.
I guess I just wish this book were a little more self-aware.