In the latest issue of Editor & Publisher, Joe Strupp tackles the slippery subject of writers and their ethics in his article Crime and Punishment. Clearly the actions of Jayson Blair and others are having ramifications throughout the publishing world. There was a time when I thought I knew the boundaries but now I’m not even sure anymore. It was easy when Janet Cook, the Pulitzer-winning reporter, got bounced for a story that was a complete fabrication–as in all lies. Those were the days before “creative nonfiction” merged into the mainstream of publishing. And we all know you can’t lift whole paragraphs and plop them into your work. But now I’m hearing that even with the required attribution folks are getting leery of any references to other work. Where does that leave the writers?
I don’t know. I confess I’m still trying to work it all out. But one thing I do know, rewarding Jayson Blair with a tell-all book contract is not the way to address the problem, let alone correct it. (By the way, Jayson has become a blogger.)