I caught this story at Single Payer Action. The account is based on a talk veteran reporter Chris Hedges gave recently at the Sanctuary for Independent Media in Troy, New York:
“Knopf –which, of course, like all of these large publishing houses is owned by a large transnational corporation–asked me to write a book on the press,” Hedges told the Sanctuary for Independent Media last month in Troy, New York.
“The advance was pretty low–I said no. But after giving a talk at the Ford Foundation, they said they would kick in the money. And I agreed to do it.”
“It was a bad idea. I learned never to write about somebody else’s idea.”
But Hedges produced the manuscript anyway–and turned it in on time.
“When Knopf got it they were horrified,” Hedges reports. “Because it exposed the rot within the commercial media, the complicity of the commercial media with the power elite–and all of the things they won’t write about, the things they won’t tell you.”
“The editor called me up and said they didn’t like it. But that’s all right–they would help me take out all the negativity. All the negativity would be removed and then Knopf would happily publish it.”
“What they wanted was a mythic version of the press–without fear or favor, America’s great investigative and truth-telling enterprise of journalism–is collapsing under the onslaught of declining circulation and declining ad revenues. And American democracy will be irrevocably damaged.”
Hedges shared with Knopf the feeling that the loss of a print-based media “will be deeply damaging.”
“But I was not about to mythologize an institution that I know intimately and know far better than any editor at Knopf,” Hedges said. “So, I called Nation Books and asked them to buy out the advance, which they did.”
“I then reconfigured the entire book. I had written about one pillar of the liberal establishment and its collapse. What I realized in the process of writing it was that all of the pillars of the liberal establishment had collapsed. The liberal church, the universities, the press, labor, culture and the Democratic Party have all failed.”