In A Matter of Opinion (Farrar Straus Giroux, $27), a memoir of his journalistic career, longtime Nation magazine editor Victor S. Navasky harks back to such early endeavors as Monocle, a satirical magazine that he and his classmates started at, of all places, Yale Law School. (Among the contributors was a clever fellow named Roger Price, who drew "Droodles," bare-bones cartoons that cried out for the most outlandish possible caption.) Navasky hoped to convert the baby magazine into a national monthly. For advice he went to a Playboy publisher, who told him it would take $500,000 to launch such a venture at the time (1958), adding, "but if you have $500,000, why would you want to start a magazine?"

The mature Navasky reverts often to the question of objectivity. In his view, mainstream outlets, which claim to have objectivity while criticizing the Nation for lacking it, are blind to their own biases. "Let me put it this way," he writes. "If The Nation has the ideology of the liberal left and National Review has the ideology of the conservative right, then The New York Times, The Washington Post, the newsweeklies, and the networks have the ideology of the center, and it is part of the ideology of the center to deny that it has an ideology." The adherence to widely shared values, Navasky suggests, can cause mainstream media outlets to ignore or misrepresent political renegades and powerful underground currents in the culture -- to miss, in other words, the newest news. "It is not that I am against objectivity (although the conventions of objective journalism do seem to have a way of strengthening the status quo)," he writes; "it is simply that I have a hard time understanding why we should seek that which we can never attain."

-- Dennis Drabelle