From the Big City Newspaper:
...Mr. Greenwald’s experience as a journalist is unusual, not because of his clear opinions but because he has rarely had to report to an editor. He began his blog Unclaimed Territory in 2005 after the news of warrantless surveillance under the Bush administration. When his blog was picked up by Salon, said Kerry Lauerman, the magazine’s departing editor in chief, Salon agreed that Mr. Greenwald would have direct access to their computer system so that he could publish his blog posts himself without an editor seeing them first if he so chose.“It basically is unheard of, but I never lost a moment of sleep over it,” Mr. Lauerman said. “He is incredibly scrupulous in the way a lawyer would be — really, really careful.”The same independence has carried over at The Guardian, though Mr. Greenwald said that for an article like the one about the N.S.A. letter he agreed that the paper should be able to edit it. Because he has often argued in defense of Bradley Manning, the army private who was charged as the WikiLeaks source, he said he considered publishing the story on his own, and not for The Guardian, to assert that the protections owed a journalist should not require the imprimatur of an established publisher....
Today I am asking my readers to take the following temporarily on faith: that for a week or two now -- pausing frequently for work and basement flooding and last-week-of-school funtimes and various other etceteras -- I have been fiddling with an essay trying to work out the specific element in Mr. Greenwald's writing that fundamentally irritates me. It's not his prose style which is, understandably, lawyerly. It's not his factual analysis and footnoting, which are usually thorough, although sometimes Mr. Greenwald has to go far, far into the weeds to find support for some of the points he is trying to make.
And then it came to me: I'll bet Glenn doesn't have an editor!
Not a censor, but an editor.
I talked about my clever theory in some detail while my wife and I were recording our podcast (which my lovely wife is even now hard at work editing, which is why I am asking you to take this temporarily on faith) that if I had to guess, I'd guess that Mr. Greenwald does not have an editor and, in my subjective opinion, his writing suffers for lack of someone to suggest what to leave in and what to cut out.
In my writing life I have frequently been on both ends of the Red Pencil; I've watched hundreds of my lovely words discarded because the story I was actually trying to tell did not show up until page six or had been shunted off to a side-track while I rambled excitedly on about shit that Was. Not The. Story.; over the years I have also coached dozens of writers into collectively cutting thousands of pages by relentlessly pushing them to answer questions like "Who is your audience? What is your narrator's point-of-view? What effect are you trying to achieve?"
Ideally, being an editor means combing remorselessly through the piece over and over again looking for flaws. Insisting the writer defend every decision. Every word has to pull its weight and then some.. Every sentence has to drive the plot or enrich the characters. Every bit of dialogue has to reveal some important detail. Are the interests of the story being served?
(This is part of the reason my own writing suffers sometimes -- when it comes to my own work I cannot swap my let-it-flow writing-brain for my grammar-cop/cut-it-to-the-bone editor's brain without a LOT of cooling-off time in-between. This is a condition which, in my case, does not lend itself well to the fire-and-move-on pace of blogging.)
For future historians, this kind of tight editing is somewhat of an artifact of an age that is slowly vanishing: a pre-blogging/pre-Twitter era when ink-on-paper physical limits like column inches and word-count were real and mattered and when there was no practical way for the writer to supplement their work with multiple, real-time updates or to directly engage their readers and critics in parallel media like Twitter and Facebook. In those olden days, a piece of writing had to be as self-contained as possible because it stood or fell entirely on its own.
If I were an editor of Mr. Greenwald's work I would have no interest in challenging most of his theses: they are what make his writing interesting even when I disagree with it. However as an editor I would push back strongly against Mr. Greenwald's penchant for bringing his narrative to a screeching halt and taking the reader completely out of the story he is trying to tell so he can heave bile-grenades at the theoretical future reactions of his Usual Suspects: DLC stooges at MSNBC... abstract, empathy-bereft "Liberals" who don't care deeply enough or in the right manner to suit Mr. Greenwald... and Obama-supporters (Obots!) who will certainly be too stupid (Cultists!) to see that Mr. Greenwald is 100% right and will probably show off their brainwashed imbecility by disputing the fact that Obama is worse than Nixon and Cheney combined.
To the non-fanboy, Mr. Greenwald's work is at its best when he lets his reporting speak for itself; it suffers tremendously when it comes across as something he pasted together primarily as an occasion to vent his spleen on Liberals.