Editor vs. writer

I’ve been following the migration of George Ochenski from the Missoula Independent to the Missoulian through 4 & 20 Blackbirds (see here and other posts in the same general time frame). So I made a point of listening to Ochenski’s appearance on Voices of Montana Wednesday morning when I probably should have been asleep.

I was less enthusiastic than jhwygirl about the interview. The implication from Aaron Flint’s reporting and interview was that Ochenski was canned (if a freelance writer can be canned) but that wasn’t clear from what Ochenski actually said in the interview — although he appeared to be quite willing to go into the down and dirty. But as soon as the interview got to that point, Flint switched to other topics.

So I dunno. Ochenski’s examples of editor malfeasance sounded like pretty routine head bumping between writers and editors. It sounds to me like either something else was going on, or one or the other (perhaps both) of the parties involved chose this occasion to act like a total jerk.

In fairness to Flint, I am probably more interested in inside baseball about editor-writer conflicts than anybody in the state, so he may have been right to switch off the topic. I’ve certainly had my own terse exchanges with columnists over the years; a certain tension is inevitable. It’s a given in journalistic circles that writers are lazy and incompetent, editors are idiots, and publishers are cowards, which makes for some nimble mental gymnastics in those of us who handle all three jobs.

As the Outpost’s Roger Clawson once put it, “My job is to stretch the envelope. Your job is to make sure the envelope doesn’t tear.” So we have exchanged a punch or two, but he’s still writing, and we still drink coffee together.

More importantly, Flint seemed to miss what may be larger story about Montana’s changing media landscape. Here the storyline could be something like this: Scrappy daily saves day for popular columnist let go by out-of-state editor of overbearing weekly. It’s a new world, and this episode is just one more example of it.


2 thoughts on “Editor vs. writer

  1. I wonder how long he will last in the Lee fold. Their papers are not known as bastions of liberal thought, at least in my part of the state. He’ll probably wish he had stayed with the Independent.

  2. We of the conservative persuasion often grit our teeth over what we perceive as basically liberal local editorial positions in the Lee papers, as well as the frequent appearances (in the Gazette at least) of columns by E.J. Dionne and Cokie and Steven Roberts. Granted, these are “respectable” liberals as contrasted to Ochenski’s more firebrand liberal style, but still liberal with only “respectable” (read: dull) George Will as an occasional conservative countermeasure.

    And, of course, both sides regard their own positions as “mainstream” and those of the other side as beyond being merely wrong.

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