In a March broadside against the state of writing in journalism, Michael Wolff singled out, among others, Reuters media critic Jack Shafer:
Shafer is among the best journalism critics working today, but, still, as a writer, only a mere programmer — whereas Capote is Steve Jobs.
Shafer today pens a Washington Post review of Jeff Himmelman’s book “Yours in Truth,” a biography of former Washington Post executive editor Ben Bradlee. From the start, Shafer drives at the drama of this volume — not so much the life of Bradlee, but the twisted relationship between Himmelman and Watergate reporter Bob Woodward:
[Himmelman] is a former Woodward researcher, one who worked so diligently on “Maestro,” the reporter’s 2001 book about Alan Greenspan, that Woodward gushed about him in his author’s note.
“Jeff Himmelman,” he wrote, “was my full-time collaborator at every step of this book — reporting, writing and editing. . . . A truly remarkable man of unusual maturity, brainpower and charm, Jeff is an original thinker who retains a deep sense of idealism. . . . This book would never have been completed without him, and it is his as much as mine. I consider him a friend for life.”
There’s the setup. Now for Shafer’s delivery:
After he finishes reading “Yours in Truth,” Woodward will probably consider a different sort of life sentence for Himmelman.
Such wooden, programmatic language. How does Shafer stay employed in this profession? Couldn’t we have gotten Wolff to write this review? Capote?