New York Review of Books editor leaves over essay uproar

Ian Buruma left his position on Sept 19, 2018, amid an uproar over the magazine's publication of an essay by Jian Ghomeshi.
Ian Buruma left his position on Sept 19, 2018, amid an uproar over the magazine's publication of an essay by Jian Ghomeshi.PHOTO: NYTIMES

NEW YORK •It is not clear if he resigned or was axed.

But what is known is that Mr Ian Buruma, editor of The New York Review of Books, left his position on Wednesday amid an uproar over the magazine's publication of an essay by a Canadian radio broadcaster accused of sexual assault.

The essay's author, Jian Ghomeshi, who was acquitted of charges in 2016, lamented his status as a pariah.

The piece caused immediate furore, with some criticising what they saw as a self-pitying tone and soft-pedalling of the accusations, which included slapping and choking, and had come from more than 20 women.

Ghomeshi's essay was published online last Friday.

On Wednesday, the magazine posted a note atop the essay that said it "should have included acknowledgement of the serious nature and number of allegations that had been made against the writer".

In the essay, Ghomeshi recounted his experience being fired from his job as the host of Q, a culture programme for the Canadian Broadcasting Corp, in 2014.

"Some women I cared about went along with things I wanted to avoid my disappointment or moods. I ought to have been more respectful and responsive," he wrote.

Backlash against the piece began even before it was posted, as word of it leaked out to Nicole Cliffe, a writer for Slate, who tweeted about it.

Then, in an interview with Slate, Mr Buruma defended his decision to publish the piece, noting that while "not everyone agreed", once the decision was made, the staff "stuck together".

When he was pressed about the accusations of sexual assault against Ghomeshi, he added: "I'm no judge of the rights and wrongs of every allegation. How can I be?"

He noted that Ghomeshi had been acquitted.

But amid the censure, there was support for the editor too.

Laura Kipnis, a Review contributor, said it had a history of publishing "tough, controversial pieces" that did not kowtow to public opinion and she lamented that doing so had cost him his job.

Poet James Fenton, a long-time contributor to The Review, and friend of Mr Buruma's, said he believed the editor was unhappy about leaving.

"If it was wrong judgment, it was wrong judgment on one article," Fenton said. "Ian didn't want to leave The New York Review."

NYTIMES

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 21, 2018, with the headline 'New York Review of Books editor leaves over essay uproar'. Print Edition | Subscribe