The Rittenhouse Review

A Philadelphia Journal of Politics, Finance, Ethics, and Culture

Monday, May 12, 2003  

And Still Coming Up Short

As a writer who tends to run long and a former editor who has spent countless hours chopping the prose of the similarly afflicted, I have a thing about counting words.

It's not an obsession, I assure you. It's more of a hobby, a pastime if you will, an occasionally amusing and interesting way to while away the hours that would be better spent working on my own dusty writing projects.

When it comes to obsessions, Andrew Sullivan is your man.

Sullivan's obsession, as readers well know, is Howell Raines, executive editor of the New York Times, the man who fired Sullivan from the lofty perch he once preached at the New York Times Magazine.

It comes as no surprise, then, that when the Times published a lengthy exposé of its own failings with respect to a reporter named Jayson Blair, whose stories were found to have included numerous instances of fabrication and plagiarism, Sullivan would be all over it. After all, hell hath no fury like a once-precocious writer scorned.

I admit I barely skimmed Sullivan's rantings on the subject at the "Daily Dish." This was my first foray over there in many weeks and I quickly was reminded why I find his site and opinions so odious. It takes but a sentence or two to catch the narrow path of Sullivan's mind, particularly when there's a personal agenda involved. (Besides, I prefer to keep up with Sullivan through SullyWatch.)

But the sheer volume of sputter and spew currently on display at "The Dish" coaxed me toward another foray into word counting. (By the way, this counting is done mechanically; I don't move a pen across the screen tallying each word.)

"Times Reporter Who Resigned Leaves Long Trail of Deception," by Dan Barry, David Barstow, Jonathan D. Glater, Adam Liptak[,] and Jacques Steinberg: Total Words: 7,213.

Combined posts on the same subject, including reproduced e-mail correspondence, on the home page at "The Daily Dish": Total Words: 3,130.

Sullivan's unceasing rant about Raines, the Times, and Blair, but of course mostly Raines, runs almost half the length of the original self-exposé published by the Times, and something tells me Sullivan isn't finished with this one yet.

To any reasonable observer, Sullivan's reaction is excessive, though I suspect he would protest otherwise, and it is embarrassing, though I'm all but certain he hasn't a clue why.

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