3.03.2008

R.I.P.

Much has been said and written in the last week about the death at age 82 of ├╝berconservative William F. Buckley.

My beef with Mr. Buckley is personal.

Buckley was my bane in the final days of my editing the editorial pages of the now defunct Jackson (Miss.) Daily News. He wrote 22-inch columns for which I was given a 12-inch “hole” on the page. The fact is his writing was so damn pompous and verbose I could hardly decipher his meaning, and I had the challenge of rewriting his columns to make them fit the available hole AND make sense.

Since I did this after deadline on my regular job as copy editor, the effort quite often prevented me from getting off on time. And, while trying to edit a columnist’s words, my lame news editor kept harping at me that I was spending too much time – “just cut the bottom,” he would say.

I tried to explain to this new boss - who had proclaimed to the copy desk, “I’m not a news editor. I’ll never be a news editor. I’m a sports guy.” - that you cannot just cut the end off a column as you would a news story, where the most important facts appear first.

Never mind that we shouldn’t be editing and cutting a columnist’s words in the first place.

Day after day for three years I labored over the words and protected their meaning. And so, Mr. Buckley, rest in peace. You really were a rarity - a mix of intelligence and conservatism - and you will not soon be forgotten.

“I See My Dreams” today: “Our fixation on fantasies”