In the 1997/1998 timeframe, the difference was that the submissions were pretty good, so rubberstamping worked OK. There were still frequent omissions and inaccuracies, but this was further handled by the commentary being exceedingly high quality. Frequently someone working on the technology, project, or software, would chime in with clarification and because comment counts were low the signal would get through the noise.
So no, the "editors" really were never that, but the system worked decently when it was a smaller user base of more knowledgable players. Then as the slide towards uselessness and hostile users began, accounts, scoring, moderation, metamoderation, and so on were all instituted, but there's really no overcoming ignorance in volume.