John McIntyre, whom James Wolcott calls "the Dave Brubeck of the art and craft of copy editing," writes on language, editing, journalism, and random topics. Identifying his errors relieves him of the burden of omniscience. Write to, befriend at Facebook, or follow at Twitter: @johnemcintyre. The original site,, at, and now at

Saturday, September 5, 2009

A qualified endorsement of the press

George Chandler-Powell is a character, a surgeon, in P.D. James’s most recent novel, The Private Patient. At one point Mr. Chandler-Powell (British surgeons do not call themselves “doctor”) expresses views about the press:

“[F]rankly, I wouldn’t lift a finger to muzzle the popular press. When you consider the machinations and deviousness of governments, we need some organisation strong enough to shout occasionally. I used to believe that I lived in a free country. Now I have to accept that I don’t. But at least we have a free press, and I’m willing to put up with a certain amount of vulgarity, popularisation, sentimentality and even misrepresentation to ensure it remains free.”