My understanding of the labour of a good editor always revolved around the absenting of any personality from the scene. You never saw the name of an editor on a book; never knew who had helped sometimes hapless authors sort out their overly complex stories and narratives.
Yet the Internet seems to have changed all that. The Internet has conferred on publishing and editors the celebrity status so many other areas of human endeavour latterly enjoy.
And so it is that I ask: was I wrong in my earlier perception? Was the celebrity status of editors – at least within the industry itself – always thus? And didn’t even the very big fish – the Randolph Hearsts and Keith Murdochs of their time – achieve an existence and presence within the most public of domains?
We only have to remember Welles’ film “Citizen Kane” to realise that certain elements of the megalomania present in much good publishing had already percolated into the public’s perception of how the processes of editing reality impacted on both individuals and a wider environment.
Which is why I’m inclined to answer the question at the top of this post in the following way: good publishing – whether you agree with particular political postures or aims or not – involves having the ego to believe one is right about a specific interpretation of reality.
Like good cinema before and after it, good publishing involves having a mission; an ideology; an approach; even an obsession.
And like all obsessions, good publishing can lead to one’s downfall.
Julian Assange courts celebrity as massive editors through the ages always end up doing. But Julian Assange is also perhaps the first example of what we might call “publishing max”: publishing taken to its ultimate extreme. Burning bridges; an unremitting commitment to revelation, whatever the consequences …
Well. The hubris of absolute knowledge does sometimes lead one to following in the footsteps of the least savoury.
Not Keith Murdoch perhaps.
Rather, Rupert – and the very British decade of corrupt establishment influences which the UK has only just awoken to.
There are many lessons to be learned about Julian Assange.
The ones that interest me most are intellectual – even as there are plenty of others which occupy many on an utterly different plane.
One day, after we learn those lessons, we may have the opportunity to understand this kind of publishing with far greater wisdom and comprehension. Assange may have astutely fashioned it – or may simply have stumbled across both its virtues and downsides, without – that is – being able to discover the difference.
Right now, of course, such a measured appreciation is beyond us.
But one day, mark my words, what I’ve cared to term “publishing max” will return. And, possibly, with a vengeance.