Thursday, May 12, 2005

The toughest editing job ever?

Here's another column (this one superb) about editing Hunter S. Thompson, a nightmare job if there ever was one.
In my own experience, the dividing line between fact and fancy rarely blurred, and we didn't always use italics or some other typographical device to indicate the lurch into the fabulous. But if there were living, identifiable humans in a scene, we took certain steps. (And sometimes it wasn't obvious. He did, after all, talk football with Nixon for an hour and a half in New Hampshire in 1968, and he knew Jackie Onassis; but he totally made up the fact that Senator Edmund Muskie had overdosed on the hallucinogen ibogaine during the 1972 primaries.) Hunter was close friends with many prominent Democrats, veterans of the ten or more presidential campaigns he covered, so when in doubt, we'd call the press secretary. "People will believe almost any twisted kind of story about politicians or Washington," he once said, and he was right.
Interspersed in the story are memos from HST to the editor, Robert Love. An example:
In my accompanying memos, I used publishing terms like "trimmed, "tightened," and "compressed," but Hunter did not always respond well to editing. When things didn't go over in Woody Creek, I'd find something like this awaiting me in the morning in New York.
To: Bob Love
From: HST
Re: Bad News

I have tried and utterly failed, Bobby, to figure out how a smart person could whine and jabber day & night about the desperate need for at least some pages about anything that happened in Little Rock on ELECTION NIGHT. . . . But what the fuck am I suppose to think when I see that YOU have very shrewdly cut (dropped, deleted, excised (sp?) "edited out") the only two pages I've sent that have anything to do with real events that occurred on either the DAY or the NIGHT of November 3 at Clinton headquarters in Little Rock (see attached/below Pages 26 & 27 -- which I wrote and & planned & intended to be my LEAD INTO Election Day/Night . . .

These two pages followed page 25 which you also cut out of your revised, compressed text of whatever story you plan to write & publish under my byline -- a randomly Altered Version of my goddamn MEMO FROM THE NATIONAL AFFAIRS DESK . . . & you also got rid of all my subheads, my intro and the only real drama that happened that day . . . .
This memo ended with a farrago of insults and a kiss off: "We are not functioning well, in an editorial sense, and FUN is a long way off. I may be running a bit late, Bobby -- but you're not running at all. Thanx for nothing. H."
And then there's the fact- and libel-checking. I'll leave that to you to read in its entirety. Fascinating.


At 5:31 PM, May 12, 2005, Blogger aparker54 said...

Have I missed a reference?

At 5:40 PM, May 12, 2005, Blogger Nicole said...

No, that would be my fault. Fixed now. Thanks!


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