Spiked!

Drudge Report says Vanity Fair won't run story critical of Steven Brill


Bill Wyman
June 29, 1999 8:00PM (UTC)

Monday was a typical day for Matt Drudge: He gets what appears to be a scoop, and promptly takes it further than the facts allow.

The scoop is that Vanity Fair has spiked what was said to be a damning profile of Steven Brill, founder of Brill's Content, the magazine that purports to cover the journalism world with the highest standards of integrity.

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Drudge says that writer Jennet Conant had resigned from Vanity Fair after editor Graydon Carter said he would not run the story. Drudge's angle: that Carter is buddies with Brill's investor Barry Diller.

The charges in the story seem to be that Brill is difficult to work for and has spun a bit on the magazine's financial situation. Of life at the magazine, one unnamed source says, "People with
more experience had never seen anything approaching that level of insanity and abuse."

We haven't read Conant's story, so for all we know Brill really is a monster and a fraud. But the evidence Drudge gives isn't convincing. In fact, it seems to us at least possible that Carter made an editorial decision that the piece didn't make its case.

A good hint of what the piece might really be like comes with this quote from Rolling Stone's Jann Wenner:

"To be successful, he should have made it an important journal, like the New York Review of Books, and come out on a more timely basis. Instead, he's already been forced to make editorial compromises inimical to his original mission. In exchange for a glamorous cover of John Kennedy, he ignored the real and interesting New York publishing story in favor of a puff piece -- thereby setting one of the worst examples of what journalism is."

We're sure Jann Wenner, who has published good journalism only by accident over the last 20 years, thinks all sorts of silly thoughts over the course of the day, and pays people enough to look interested when he utters them. But if Conant considered him a legitimate source of criticism about a publisher who is at least trying to take a good hard look at a profession that too seldom gets it, her piece might have deserved to have been spiked.

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Bill Wyman

Bill Wyman is the former arts editor of Salon and National Public Radio.

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