Books — Killed: Great Journalism Too Hot To Print

Journalistic life after death

Killed revives stories abandoned before publication

By Amy Diaz [] 

Killed: Great Journalism Too Hot to Print, Edited by David Wallis, Nation Books, 2004.

Every time a reporter has a story killed, he feels like the victim of a great injustice.

To kill a story in the newspaper world is to decide that it will never see the light of day. This pains and angers reporters who spend hours on their articles and who have a really deep biological need to see their names in print. So when an editor or a publisher hits that kill switch, most reporters feel that they were somehow robbed.

The reality of one of these journalistic homicides is that they are usually committed for mundane, relatively un-sinister reasons. Like that editor was just in a crappy mood.

Enter the great savior that is the Killed collection.

Many of the pieces in the book, such as the one by P.J. O’Rourke about his visit to Beirut in 1984 that was killed by Vanity Fair or Betty Friedan’s piece for McCalls in 1958, eventually became parts of successful books.

Only in a few instances, such as a piece written for Vanity Fair about the marketing practices of The Body Shop or an article by George Orwell what was considered unpatriotic, do the stories in Killed really seem like the political or commercial victims that the book seems to want us to believe they all are.

However, the somewhat sensationalistic packaging for the book does not take away from what it really is—a compilation of some really strong magazine-style nonfiction writing. These stories, whether they eventually saw publication or not, are ones that the authors enjoyed writing, were proud of and wanted to see in print. The stories are from some of the best long-article writers, the subjects are interesting and the pieces are usually well-executed.

Even though they might not be credible examples of corporate oppression of The Truth, these stories do make for good reading.

- Amy Diaz

2004 HippoPress LLC | Manchester, NH