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Howl, Raines

It’s probably not too late to find a copy of the May issue of the Atlantic. In it, Howell Raines, deposed editor, defends his tenure at the New York Times. (The Atlantic online only offers this teaser.) There is a lot of dirt dishing. The Atlantic could easily fill an entire issue with the letters it will receive, so next month will also be highly entertaining.

In theory, the piece is a defense of the L’Affaire Blair (Jayson, not Tony.). This is supposed to be Howell’s opportunity to clear the air. But in the telling, there is a lot more Howell than Jason in the piece. Highlights include the role of the unions in creating mediocrity at the Times and Raines’s defense of pandering to popular culture.

I always find pieces like this fascinating. How do you write an autobiographical account like this without sounding like a chapter from Nietzsche’s Ecce Homo? Turns out it can’t be done. Raines reminds me of the job candidate asked to list his flaws. “I’m too much of a perfectionist.” So it is with Raines when he confesses that his biggest failure on the job was trying too hard to make the paper better too quickly.

As in all such barbaric yawps, much (almost all?) is hidden. To my great disappointment, there is no mention of the moose, an object which many of the staff saw as so much Bullwinkle.