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August 16, 2008

Moms, editors always knew what was best

The way it used to be, there were always two people who knew what was best for you.

One was your mother.

The other was the editor of whatever newspaper you happened to read.

The editor felt he should be in charge of all the news you needed to know ... and what you didn't.

Mom felt she should rule every other aspect of your existence.

On the one hand, the editor wasn't the reason you spent the better part of your adult life in therapy.

On the other hand, Mom loved you no matter what.

As the years have gone by, the influence of Mom (or the memory of her) and the editor have eroded to the point where you almost feel somehow entitled to make a lot of your own decisions.

While this development is generally a good thing, it can be a little hard to get used to _ for you, Mom and the noble editor.

For our purposes today, issues with your mother are best left to your psychologist or the publisher of the "Mommy Dearest" memoir you've been meaning to write someday if only you could find the time.

For now, let's remember back to the days before the Internet, blogs and 24-hour cable TV programming. Newspaper editors had great power _ although every editor I know would call it great responsibility _ over what folks learned about their towns, their country and their world.

Gatekeepers, that's what editors were called.

Since 1896, the front-page motto of The New York Times has been "All the News That's Fit to Print." The editors, of course, have decided what's "fit to print."

It has been, at best, a mixed blessing.

Contrary to some spirited opinion regarding us as a lower species, editors are human. Try as we might to be fair, we are capable of prejudice, susceptible to flattery and often filled far over the brim with hubris.

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