To the Editor:
Contrary to The Observer’s report in “Some See Nepotism in Commentary’s New Editor Choice” [Oct. 29], the decision to name John Podhoretz as Commentary’s next editor was made by me and my fellow directors of Commentary Inc., not by the current editor or his predecessor.
Although Leon Neyfakh, The Observer’s writer, knew this, he never even tried to speak either to me or to any other board member in “reporting” his story.
As if this were not a sufficient violation of good journalistic practice, the current editor is smeared in The Observer’s article by an alleged former Commentary contributor who refuses to let his own name appear even as he impugns Mr. Kozodoy’s courage and integrity.
This, about a man whose editorial steadfastness is legendary, and who has adhered to an independent editorial vision while others—including your “source”—have turned tail. There is no journalistic justification for granting anonymity to the author of such a personal slur.
Even the headline of your article is false and misleading: The “some” in the body of your report turns out to consist solely of the single name-calling coward.
The rest of the article reflects widespread recognition—which the Commentary Board emphatically shares—that John Podhoretz has compiled a distinguished record of journalistic achievement and promises to bring energy and imagination to Commentary as it enters its seventh decade of service to American values and American letters.
Leon Neyfakh replies:
Contrary to what Mr. Schwartz suggests, we did not report that John Podhoretz was selected as Commentary’s new editor by Neal Kozodoy or Norman Podhoretz.
Rather, we wrote—based on communication with Mr. Kozodoy and John Podhoretz themselves—that Mr. Kozodoy asked John Podhoretz if he was interested in taking over, then floated the idea to the magazine’s board of directors.
The Observer made numerous unsuccessful attempts to contact members of the board. Finally, the point of view expressed by the “longtime contributor” we quoted—that John Podhoretz’s father was “involved” in his son’s appointment—was echoed to us by several knowledgeable observers.
Though we agree that the use of anonymous sources to level criticism is regrettable, in this case it was the only way to represent a point of view that our readers deserved to hear.