NRO’s Editing Breakdown

Seems to be a problem with "opinion" mags these days

It looks like we won’t have W. Thomas Smith to kick around anymore. The freelance National Review Online writer, who was caught fudging some facts in a couple of recent blog posts from Lebanon, won’t be writing for the magazine any longer. He writes this morning that,

Both NRO and I have taken far too much heat for something which would never have happened had I been more specific in terms of detailing my sourcing while blogging about Lebanon at “The Tank”. That is a responsibility I have to accept.

Kathryn Jean Lopez, the editor of NRO, also posted a mea culpa on the site today, giving what at first glance looks to be a pretty good rundown of what happened:

We should have required Smith to clearly source all of his original reporting from Lebanon. Smith let himself become susceptible to spin by those taking him around Lebanon, so his reporting from there should be read with that knowledge…This was an editing failure as much as it was a reporting failure. [emphasis ours]

When it comes down to it, that last line says it all (though don’t tell TNR’s Frank Foer that—the guy just burned through a couple thousand words to say essentially the same thing, in a much more tortured and unsatisfactory fashion, while trying to distance TNR from its own fabulist, Scott Beauchamp.) In both cases, the editors in question saw a sexy story and failed to perform due diligence to make sure that it was true.

There is one thing I’d like explained, however. Remember how The Weekly Standard got all bent out of shape over Beauchamp’s fables? Well, not a single peep thus far from the folks there about Smith’s fairy tales.

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Paul McLeary is senior editor of Defense Technology International magazine, and is a former CJR staffer.