Killed - Great Journalism Too Hot To Print

BOOK REVIEW by Willard Manus

"This book strips a layer of gloss from the pages of magazines and cracks open the door of the newspaper editor's inner sanctum, granting readers a glimpse at the sometimes sordid process that determines what you read and what you can't. The media elite didn't want you to know about the seamy side of the circus. They kept you in the dark about a missile-sized hole in airline security. They suppressed a satire of Hollywood's publicity-industrial complex so as not to offend powerful flacks. They banned book reviews that were tough on cronies. And they folded rather than fight a hypocritical CEO who misled consumers."

That's from David Wallis's introduction to KILLED--GREAT JOURNALISM TOO HOT TO PRINT, an anthology he edited for Nation Books. Twenty-four censored articles are given new life here, introduced by the men and women who wrote them (with the exception of the late George Orwell). Among the contributors are such well-known writers as Betty Friedan, Terry Southern, P.J. O'Rourke, Robert Fisk and Todd Gitlin. Their status did not protect them from being betrayed by editors who, after having commissioned a controversial article, proceeded to weasel out of publishing it.

A case in point is the piece investigative reporter Ann Louise Bardach wrote for "Vanity Fair" on the Reverend Sun Myung Moon and the influential newspaper his Unification Church owned, "The Washington Times." Founded as a conservative alternative to the liberal "Washington Post," the "Times" insisted for many years that the Moonies had no control over its editorial content. Bardach shot down that lie in her article, "Moonstruck: the Reverend and His Newspaper," which proved 1) there was no wall separating paper and church, and 2) that the "Times" consistently published slanted right-wing journalism.

Imagine Bardach's shock when her carefully-researched expose was killed by Tina Brown, the editor of Vanity Fair. "I was never given a specific reason why this story was killed," said the writer. "However, reservations were expressed about litigious Moonies. I think it is fair to say that taking on a billionaire mogul, with powerful pals in the White House, and more money (and lawyers) than God, was the primary reason."

KILLED is packed with many other disturbing stories like that, stories which reveal how often honest, independent journalists are censored in the mass media today. What ever happened to the principle of a free press?