Thursday, August 2, 2012

Who Can You Trust? - Ethics in Publishing

This week brought with it another story of a writer fabricating information in a nonfiction book. Jonah Lehrer, a staff reporter at The New Yorker magazine resigned his position after admitting he fabricated quotes from Bob Dylan in his book, Imagine: How Creativity Works.

According to an article from The Wall Street Journal, journalist Michal Moynihan, regular contributor to Tablet magazine, contacted Lehrer via email to ask about some of the Dylan quotes included in his book, which is how the story unraveled. Lehrer was also criticized earlier this year when it was discovered he repurposed material he had originally written elsewhere.

This isn't what the publishing industry needs right now. The publisher of Imagine has halted sales of the physical and digital editions and retailers are pulling the book from its shelves. Does any publisher need to take that hit when the industry is still trying to learn how to cope with the influx of digital books, self-published titles and free downloads? How about agents? They work hard to get a writer a favorable book deal and then don't get to reap any rewards because of the writer's dishonesty.

How many times can the publishing industry recover from a writer's questionable integrity?

When will readers stop trusting that the nonfiction books they purchase are accurate?

Will other writers pay the price for the mistakes made by Lehrer and others whose books and articles have been found to include erroneous information?

Writers need a variety of traits to be successful. Honesty and integrity top the list. Without those, a writer is just another hack trying to make a quick buck. I hope this is the last we've seen of these types of writers.

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