Press Box

Free David Talbot!

A story about Slate and Salon ran on the Dow Jones Newswire last weekend. It contained the usual blather from the editor of Slate, but only this ominous note regarding the editor of Salon:

“In an e-mail exchange with Dow Jones Newswires, Talbot says he would be ‘happy’ to discuss the situation, but the company declines to make him available.”

This raises many dire questions. Talbot patently is available–he answered the e-mail, didn’t he?–and yet he says he is unavailable. How can that be? Even more suspicious: He would be “happy” to be available, but someone else will not make him available. Are we meant to conclude that the editor of Salon is not the master of his own availability? That he cannot be available without assistance? In the past he has seemed an available kinda guy, so one cannot help being alarmed that he suddenly needs others to availabilize him. Even more alarming, these others, whoever they are, evidently will not grant him the availability that his happiness requires.

But then how do we know that Talbot really wrote this e-mail? This is a man who has declared courageously that “fearless journalists, true journalists shouldn’t be worried about perception or spin. They should be worried about the truth and concerned about the truth.” His publication prides itself on its feisty independence. Is it plausible that an editor such as this one would allow himself to be muzzled by “the company”? Who is “the company,” anyway? If Salon’s management cannot trust the editor to speak for himself, how can we–its loyal readers–trust what he edits? Thank goodness Slate is published by a more enlightened sort of company!

The explanation, frankly, is just not good enough. In the movies, when Miss Smith answers the phone and says that Miss Smith is unavailable, there is usually a gun pointed at her head. Or she is already dead and someone else is pretending to be her. Let us not mince words: We fear that the editor of Salon may have been murdered by the publisher to keep him quiet. Or possibly by venture capitalists who calculated that their stakes in Salon are now worth less than their “key man” insurance policies.

If he hasn’t been murdered, he may have been kidnapped. At the very least he has been silenced, which is shameful enough. In the name of justice, we call upon the management of Salon to produce the editor–dead or alive–and, if the latter (or, what the heck, in either case), allow him to express his views. And if Salon refuses to publish the editor of Salon, Slate will be happy to make room for him. It’s the least we can do.