Book Editor Sam Tanenhaus 'Weasels' Out of Reviewing Book Critical of New York Times

December 7th, 2010 10:54 AM

Author William McGowan and New York Times Book Review editor Sam Tanenhaus had a revealing email exchange recently over the prospects of the New York Times reviewing McGowan’s new book “Gray Lady Down – What the Decline and Fall of The New York Times Means for America,” an exchange that McGowan's publisher, Roger Kimball of Encounter Books, describes as a prime example of Tanenhaus "in weasel mode.”

In an email exchange obtained by Times Watch, McGowan wrote to Tanenhaus on November 22 informing Tanenhaus that he had dropped off a copy of “Gray Lady Down” for review purposes, writing: “I think the book should be read as coming from the loyal opposition, a la [former Times Public Editor] Dan Okrent, and while it may not be everywhere flattering it is, to the best of my ability, everywhere fair.”

McGowan reminded Tanenhaus that he had previously told him “Gray Lady Down” would receive a review in the Times. (McGowan’s last critical appraisal of the Times, “Coloring the News,” was ignored by the paper.)

Tanenhaus replied the next day, in part: “Encounter [the book’s publisher] has had a stated policy for some years now of not sending us books because, as I understand it, Roger Kimball does not want them reviewed in the Book Review. Of course that is his choice. But until he changes his mind we’re not in a position to consider any Encounter titles for review.”

Tanenhaus is referring to a post by Encounter Books Publisher Roger Kimball on June 23, 2008: “Encounter Bids The New York Times Farewell.” An excerpt:

Beginning today, June 23, 2008, Encounter Books will no longer send its books to The New York Times for review. Of course, the editors at the Times are welcome to trot down to their local book emporium or visit to purchase our books, but we won’t be sending gratis advance copies to them any longer.

Kimball explained, in part:

In the last month, Encounter has had two titles on the extended New York Times best-seller list: Climate Confusion: How Global Warming Hysteria Leads to Bad Science, Pandering Politicians and Misguided Policies that Hurt the Poor by Roy Spencer, and Willful Blindness: A Memoir of the Jihad, by Andrew C. McCarthy. But that list is the only place you will find these books mentioned in the pages of The New York Times. We’ve also published other brisk-selling books that the Times has ignored....

Kimball also noted that “The Times had nothing but praise for What Liberal Media? The Truth About Bias and the News (“impressively researched and documented”) by The Nation’s Eric Alterman, but it completely ignored William McGowan’s Coloring the News: How Political Correctness Has Corrupted American Journalism, which won the National Press Club’s Arthur Rowse Award for Press Criticism but, being published by Encounter and being critical of the Times, just didn’t make the cut.”

Calling the response by Tanenhaus an act of hypocrisy, McGowan suggested Tanenhaus used the Kimball post as a fig leaf to avoid the drama of dealing with both the book and his boss, publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr.

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