Wednesday, May 6, 2009

The Ethics of Publishing

As a Yankees fan, I've heard countless stories and opinions about the recently released biography A-Rod: The Many Lives of Alex Rodriguez by Selena Roberts. While I haven't read the book, and honestly don't plan to, it brought up the issues of ethics in journalism, and publishing for that matter.

Although I am a Yankees fan, I realize ARod has made his fair share of mistakes and poor judgement calls. Although already called out on his steroid use in the major leagues, Roberts' bio seems to take this further (based on the few reviews I've read), implying his drug use started as early as high school. Apparently, the book is also based mainly on anonymous sources. Without reading this book, I am not one to judge - but it does bring up an interesting question: If I ever worked at or owned a publishing company, what would I, as a publisher, be willing to put my name on. Where do you draw the line of selling books and sticking to what you believe? I know my idealistic views of publishing may be naive, but I've never been immersed in that industry, in that world, so I'm not sure.

Now, as a journalism major in college, I quickly grew tired of the "politics" of journalism. I distinctly remember sitting in a news writing class thinking how I could never interview a family member or friend of someone who had just died. But, it was ingrained in me that there was a time and place for it all, a mix between reporting the truth and protecting ethics could be found in journalism. Although any journalistic reporting I did in college was about the most mundane of topics (profiling the water polo captain, detailing how college students celebrate their 21st birthdays, etc), I knew I wouldn't want to have to make that judgement call for hard hitting news. I guess I just didn't have that edge in me.

So, I am left wondering if publishing is the same? When do you say, yes this book might make a ton of money, but do I really believe in it - in what it says? I guess the point of publishing is to put different ideas out there, regardless of your personal belief in each one. Maybe the line is drawn when the method of reaching this final product or book is tainted with unethical practices. Despite my naivety, in the competitive world of publishing I'm no where near having to making a decision regarding the ethics of a book I may or may not publish. But what if one day I am faced with this dilemma? What would you do?

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