You know, there are 7.4 billion people on Earth. That’s a lot of people to choose from.
There are people who do all sorts of important things, and viral videos on Facebook showcase those bunny huggers who rescue animals and those people who break gender and racial barriers as well as the inventors, innovators, and the like.
And you’re an editor for a magazine that reviews books. There is something in the business called “fit”: certain pitches get shot down because they go against the publication’s mandate.
A men’s sporting magazine is going to shoot down your pitch for teaching art to children. A science magazine is not interested in women’s fall fashions. A political magazine is not going to print an article about looking after rescued horses. A Left-wing magazine is not going to write an opinion piece about how great a president Donald Trump is. No, no, no.
But the former editor of the New York Review of Books, Ian Buruma, decided getting an article from a disgraced Canadian radio host not known as an author to wallow about how hard it is when society frowns on your destructive dysfunctionality was a good idea.
Buruma has been in the business long enough to know he did a whole bunch of things wrong, starting from breaking away from the magazine’s fit. He had to go out of his way to solicit a piece like this one. It would have been one thing if Jian Ghomeshi wrote a book about it (a still very bad move, but he could have had a bigger excuse to offer) — but there was actually no news peg to justify the piece is what makes the motives for publishing it in a book reviewing rag highly questionable.
Second, Ghomeshi is no “get”. He doesn’t have a following. CBC radio caters to older demographics, and isn’t some to-go hub for New Yorkers or Americans in general. Ghomeshi’s ratings were not through the roof: he had an advantage of having a slightly younger demo with somewhat higher ratings than one would expect from the CBC. No one was clamouring for this trigger piece. If you are going to go out on a limb, there would have to be some justifiable payoff, and Ghomeshi — no matter how generous or charitable you are with the goalposts — could not possibly be it on his own. He just knew where to inject himself and how, nothing more.
Finally, Ghomeshi has YouTube, blogs, and social media if he wants to air his story, or he could just go to the National Post to get a front-page story about how all the little people should feel sorry for him the way they were instructed to feel sorry for Steven Galloway.
There was absolutely no sound editorial justification for this piece even if Ghomeshi didn’t do anything wrong.
There is every justification if I had been asked to write about the state of journalism as I have a new book out from a well-respected London-based publisher, and have had three previous books published, including one that was a companion book to a wildly popular documentary movie. I don’t hold my breath because well-researched and documented books that prove that journalists are less than saints will get shut out completely.
Now add the fact that the author and subject of the essay was disgraced for being abusive to women and allowed his narrative to go unverified and unchallenged, and then, when interviewed, the editor could not provide a coherent answer. It is a fireable offence, and Buruma was shown the door.
He shows he has learned nothing.
In an interview in Vrij, he wallows and makes a false comparison:
‘I am embroiled in a big scandal, in the middle of storm on social media,’ said Ian Buruma on the phone from New York. ‘It is rather ironic: as editor of The New York Review of Books I published a theme issue about #MeToo-offenders who had not been convicted in a court of law but by social media. And now I myself am publicly pilloried.’
There is no irony. Buruma refuses to get it: you do not need to be convicted of a crime to be fired. Not every incompetent and/or malicious undertaking results in a judicial conviction.
For example, there is nothing illegal about telling people that they smell like garbage.
However, if you tell it to customers who all march off and vent on social media about it, you will get fired for shooting off your big mouth without consideration of something known as consequences.
Buruma seems to believe that you have to get a court conviction in order for people’s outrage to be legitimate. He isn’t exactly paying attention or asking hard questions, making him sound like an even worse editor.
When Ghomeshi was on trial, what vindicated him was something very intriguing and disturbing: copies of correspondence he had with his various victims after the fact.
Correspondence that would be years old. Why were they kept, and what purpose did they serve, especially as none of these relationships were long or serious in nature?
Computers break. Memory sticks get corrupted. Files go missing, but how convenient it was to have easy access to trophies. The case was far more diabolical and troubling than it first appeared…but Buruma sees nothing save to give a platform to a lost little man-child, and then whine when he faces the consequences of enabling bad behaviour.
If you are pretending to disseminate information, then you do it right: with verifying claims. Since he did not, that alone justified his sacking.
If you don’t know how to do a job, Mr. Buruma, then do not be surprised that you lose it in the bargain...