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Sleeping with the Elephants

BY EDWARD KLEIN/ October 18, 2016


Neilsen BookScan, which covers 85 percent of hardcover and e-book sales in America, is the gold standard for tracking bestsellers.

Based on the latest Neilsen BookScan numbers, my new book, Guilty as Sin, is the fourth bestselling book in the country, after Bill O’Reilly’s Killing the Rising Sun, Bruce Springsteen’s Born to Run, and  J.D. Vance’s Hillbilly Elegy.

And yet, this coming Sunday’s New York Times Book Review, which ignores Neilsen BookScan in favor of its own secret sauce, lists Guilty as Sin, as number 13 on its combined hardcover and e-book list.

How can that be? you might ask.

You might as well ask why, on any given day, you can leaf through the news columns of the New York Times and not find a single word on the WikiLeaks revelations about the shenanigans in Hillary Clinton’s inner sanctum.

The Times cooks its books. It can’t be relied on to give you all the news that’s fit to print. Its news columns are now virtually indistinguishable from its far-left editorial page and op-ed kpage.

This is a sad commentary on a newspaper that once set the agenda not only for the entire media, but for intelligent conversations on the arts, foreign affairs, and politics.

Something terrible has happened to the New York Times over the past 30 years—ever since A. M. Rosenthal stepped down in 1987 as its executive editor.


A.M. Rosenthal in his trademark bow tie

When I was editor in chief of the New York Times Magazine in the late 1970s and 1980s, I worked for Abe Rosenthal. Like many other editors in those days, I had a contentious relationship with Abe. He was a hard man to get along with. But no one doubted his high journalistic standards.

As Robert D. McFadden wrote in his obituary of Abe, who died at the age of 84 in 2006: “Brilliant, passionate, abrasive, a man of dark moods and mercurial temperament, he could coolly evaluate world developments one minute and humble a subordinate for an error in the next.”

Abe had a saying that summed up his journalistic credo: “You can f—k an elephant if you want to, but if you do, you can’t cover the circus.”

Today, sadly, reporters at the Times and other mainstream media organizations are sleeping with the elephants.