Monday, September 20, 2004

Lewis Lapham sings the blues

I love Harper's. I really do. I consistently find three quarters of the articles interesting and cogent, and it's no trouble to gloss over the rest because the parts that I enjoy are just that good. Six months ago when my subscription came up for renewal I had no qualms about signing on for not one more but two more years.

That's why this recent claptrap with Lewis Lapham writing about his reactions to the speeches at the Republican National Convention before they actually took place has me good and mad. Under the best of circumstances, Lapham's editorials are usually self-aggrandizing pap; the fact that I often agree with the man politically doesn't mean that I like his prose or his willingness to see himself as above the fray. But his editorials, by the weakest feature of most issues, are what I'm willing to put up with because his other editor-in-chief skills are so strong. The man puts together a good magazine.

Unfortunately, the man also seems to be a few indulgences short of journalistic integrity.

When confronted about it on the letters to the editor page in the most recent (October) issue, he gives a tongue-in-cheek cutesy response that makes me want to hurl ("... if I'd had my wits about me as an editor, I wouldn't have let the author mix up his tenses in manuscript or allowed him in page proof to lapse into poetic license. Both of us regret the injury done to the magazine and apologize, wholeheartedly, to its readers.") You can hear him patting himself on the back for his cleverness, and the suggestion that reporting on a story, as fact, before it's ever happened (without any claim that he had advance media access to the speeches) is poetic license rather than just making shit up is frankly just insulting.

The man should step down as editor-in-chief.


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