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New York Review of Books Acknowledges ‘Failures’ in a #MeToo Essay

The New York Review of Books issued a statement on Monday addressing the sudden departure of its editor last week, saying “we acknowledge our failures in the presentation and editing” of an essay by a man who had been accused of sexual assault.

In the essay, “Reflections From a Hashtag,” Jian Ghomeshi, a former Canadian radio broadcaster who was acquitted of sexual assault charges in 2016, wrote about feeling “suicidal” after being ostracized on social media and in Canadian newspapers. Mr. Ghomeshi wrote about suffering “enough humiliation for a lifetime,” and claimed that his experience confirmed “the power of a contemporary mass shaming.”

The piece caused an immediate backlash, with some criticizing Mr. Ghomeshi and the Review for downplaying the accusations against him, which had come from more than 20 women, rather than “several,” as Mr. Ghomeshi wrote.

Five days after the essay was published, the editor, Ian Buruma, left the Review. It was not clear if he resigned or was fired.

On Monday, in the magazine’s first statement discussing his departure, it described the “considerable concern” over the essay among readers, adding, “We acknowledge the validity of this criticism.” (The unsigned statement was sent from the email address of the publisher, Rea Hederman, with the subject line: “From NYR.”)

While citing Mr. Ghomeshi’s free-speech rights, the magazine described “our failures in the presentation and editing” of the essay.

[Ian Buruma is out as editor of The New York Review of Books]

The magazine said the “failures began with the decision to not follow the Review’s usual editorial practices set up by Bob Silvers and Barbara Epstein,” the editors who founded the magazine in 1963. (Mr. Silvers was still editing the magazine when he died at 87 last year. Mr. Buruma took over a little more than a year ago.)

“This article was shown to only one male editor during the editing process,” Monday’s statement from the magazine continued. “Most members of the editorial staff (including six female members of staff, four of whom worked with Bob and Barbara), were excluded from the substantive editorial process.”

Mr. Buruma declined to comment on Monday, saying that he would soon issue a statement with his own version of what happened during the editorial process.

The magazine said the experience of the women who complained about Mr. Ghomeshi’s behavior “is definitely a large part of the story, and the article’s tone and subsequent comment appear to downplay or ignore this.”

That “subsequent comment” included two interviews Mr. Buruma gave in the wake of publishing the piece. In an interview with Slate, Mr. Buruma said that “not everybody agreed” about the wisdom of publishing the essay, but that once the decision was made, the staff “stuck together.” He also spoke to the Dutch magazine Vrij Nederland, saying that he had been “convicted on Twitter, without any due process.”

“Most of the editorial staff objected to Ian Buruma’s comments to Slate and VN,” Monday’s statement from the Review said. “Many felt his comment that the staff came together after initial objections to the Ghomeshi piece did not accurately represent their views.”

The statement concluded: “The New York Review has a long history of publishing controversial and unpopular pieces and will continue to do so. However, in the future, we expect the editing to live up to the standards to which the Review aspires.”

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