Reporting the news – where’s the responsibility?

*Warning – rant time again *

I don’t get it. A vanity press signs a six-year-old kid to a 23 book deal, and the news goes viral. Why? Because the newspaper reporting the deal didn’t do their homework – meaning they had no idea Strategic is a vanity press. But wait, it gets even better…Publisher’s Weekly reported it as well.

Now, I know what you’re thinking – stalwart publications like the Mirror and PW would have something quite snarky about the fact that a vanity press signed a kid barely out of diapers, right? Wrong. Neither publication had any remarks at all. Why? Did they not know? I’m gobsmacked.

Does no one ask questions anymore, or do we have ten-year-olds reporting the news who take everything at face value and haven’t learned the fine art of INVESTIGATION. Didn’t this deal strike these reporting agencies as odd to the point where someone with a firing synapse would ask, “Hmm…what kind of publisher signs a wee bairn to a 23 book deal? Perhaps we should take a closer look at the publisher.”

Where were the editors on this story, asking the tough questions like, “who in their right minds signs a kid? Go back and research.” I mean, that’s what editors do, for beagle’s sake. Instead, people have emailed the Mirror to point out how they missed the fact that Strategic is a scam. Oh! sez the Mirror, big thanks to ye. We will bloody well check that out.


Maybe I gave them too much credit and there are no firing synapses at these publications that are responsible for reporting the news. Gives a whole new meaning to “reporting the news,” doesn’t it?

I can almost forgive the Mirror because they don’t specialize in the publishing industry. Mind you, I said almost because it still goes to their responsibility to be an effective reporter – in which they failed beautifully. But Publisher’s Weekly? Wow. Were  their investigative pants in the dryer?

The root of my disgust is how this will impact writers. This news is all over the news and blogosphere and writers are going to naturally check out the publisher. And they’ll query. And they’ll get sucked into the vanity muck because, hey, PW and the Mirror reported it, so it must be legit, right?

And so it goes – another untapped resource opens their wallets and line the pockets of vanity presses who don’t edit, don’t distribute, don’t support. For so many don’ts, they certainly have a captive audience. It’s sad to see so many people believing there are short cuts in this industry and their desire to “be published” outweighs the desire to hone their skills.

I think this story should have absolutely been publicized in order to show how Strategic will stoop at nothing to get some hefty bucks. Sadly, that didn’t happen. Instead, these “news” outlets did nothing to educate the public or protect the unaware. With news like this, it might be better to read comic books.

For a less ranty post, I recommend reading Victoria Strauss’ post at Writer Beware on the subject.

12 Responses to Reporting the news – where’s the responsibility?

  1. Sally Zigmond says:

    Journalism today sees to work on the principle of never let the truth or responsible reporting get in the way of a story.

  2. Sally, no truer words were ever uttered.

  3. Frank Mazur says:

    One commenter on Strauss’ blog cautions this matter may be the beginning of a fresh urban legend. Acting off the cue of the commenter, I too did a bit of googling and came to the same conclusion: lots of confusion with this book, the deal, and just who the hell wrote it.

  4. Jane Smith says:

    I’ve found out all sorts of things about this book deal. I might well blog about it in a day or two. As usual, it’s been hugely misreported but that won’t help the writers who might be sucked in by the story.

  5. Whether it’s an urban legend or a ruse, the fact that Publisher’s Weekly – a publishing magazine – did absolutely no investigation into this is unconscionable.

  6. NinjaFingers says:

    I don’t really trust the Mirror as a source, but PW? Ugh.

  7. Leila says:

    I just noticed this story on Writewords. I’m glad people are blogging about it and making sure the real facts are known. PW should have more sense, surely!
    What you say about people wanting short cuts is bang on. On the same day I read this story, I also read this one:

    So on the one hand the media are going crazy over a six year old boy being scammed by a vanity press (how cute!) and on the other, a writer who has worked hard on his skills for years is quietly giving up. It’s a bit sad, I think. I wish the media gave half the attention to the real hard work of writing as they do to this kind of non-story.

  8. Frank Mazur says:

    Here’s a post from today where someone has put a few things together…

  9. Thanks for the link, Frank, I just saw it on Twitter. What a freaking ruse.

  10. Rik says:

    You make me laugh, Lynne: “stalwart publications like the Mirror …” Good one!

    Though given the listing/review scam PW is about to play on self-published authors (see J A Konrath’s blog for details) it doesn’t surprise me that they can be bracketed with the likes of the Mirror without raising a chuckle.

    (It’s going to be all over again.)

  11. Rik says:

    (with deepest apologies for mis-spelling your name, Lynn)

  12. ‘Tis ok, Rik. I’ve been called far worse than a simple name misspelling.

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