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Vanity Fair's Carter, a Man of Character

June 24, 2004

I read with some annoyance my quotes in the June 16 article on [Vanity Fair Editor] Graydon Carter, since they didn't fully capture my feelings.

Carter's so-called misdeeds are absolutely nothing compared with what goes on every day within the walls of the media conglomerates that now dominate our business. I am much more afraid of a television network using its news division to promote its parent company's movies or books than I am of Carter's wish to be compensated for helping a project get set up.

The current corporate climate in the U.S. militates against anyone who is politically incorrect or a "character," as I believe Carter to be, in that he runs his magazine according to his own instincts and not those of a marketing committee. I alluded to similar criticism of Peter Bart, the editor of Variety and another well-known "character" who has run afoul of the PC police because he expresses himself in ways that are unorthodox. I am as concerned about losing those voices of "character" in our public discourse as I am about upholding ethics, and if we are to preserve the latter, it shouldn't be at the expense of the former.

Journalists, like politicians, are aware that their actions will be judged not solely on the facts, but on appearance as well. I have no sense that Carter acted unethically, or ever would act unethically, but it was possible that his actions could look like a conflict of interest. If he were my friend, I would advise him not to do business in Hollywood, not because it was ethically wrong but because it might not be wise -- a very different kind of judgment.

The thrust of my comments were in defense of Carter, whom I have met only twice, but whom I respect a great deal.

Marshall Herskovitz

Santa Monica

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