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Likely Stories

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Keir Graff and editors from Booklist's adult and youth departments write candidly about books, book reviewing, and the publishing industry

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Thursday, December 18, 2008 11:27 am
But I’m Sure He Was Perfectly Objective
Posted by: Keir Graff

In the book-review world’s equivalent of stunt casting, Tina Brown assigned Conrad Black to write a review of Michael Wolff’s The Man Who Owns the News: Inside the Secret World of Rupert Murdoch.

Although Black is not primarily known as a book reviewer, he is the author of two books, including Franklin Delano Roosevelt: Champion of Freedom (he also wrote a sympathetic biography of Richard Nixon). But there are two conditions that would have made most editors disqualify Black from reviewing Wolff’s book. One, he is a subject of the book. Two, he is serving a prison sentence for fraud.

It’s a long way from the New Yorker to the Daily Beast, isn’t it, Tina?

From Wolff’s response on Newser:

The point here is partly one made since the beginning of Internet time by journalists of a stricter cast: The Web lacks, to say the least, a trustworthy or reliable or, even, establishable provenance. It’s 90% balderdash. But what was once its drawback has now become its glory—its rulelessness is a lot like freedom from the bores of conventional media. The fact, for instance, that Conrad Black is both a subject of my book and a convicted felon (i.e. he’s lied about the very issues I’m discussing) might ordinarily make him a suspect reviewer. But his true function on the Web is not to review, but to be outlandish, part of a new freak show. Black and Spitzer, and, in a way, Tina herself, are not so much to be taken seriously but to be taken as novelty acts. It’s a laughing-at-them thing.


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