Ed Champion excoriates Karen Holt for writing in Publishers Weekly that includes passages such as this:
There was the time at BEA when I wanted to ask Margaret Atwood a few questions so she took my arm and steered me toward some chairs in the corner (”Margaret Atwood is touching me!”). There was my trip to Maine last summer to interview Richard Ford when he and his wife put me up for the night in their guest cottage (”I’m staying in Richard Ford’s guest house!”). There was the night I capped off an interview with Gay Talese by joining him for dinner at Elaine’s (A double shot of literary New York icons).
“When a journalist conducts an author interview or writes a profile, a journalist has the duty to maintain some sense of independent authority, which will permit her to ask hard-hitting, challenging and thought-provoking questions. One must ask questions that nobody else asks. One must practice journalism,” Champion insists. “Karen Holt has, with one simple sentence, revealed that Publishers Weekly has little concern for journalistic ethics. Her stay at Ford’s home is not unlike some of the egregious influence peddling that studios use to buy the Hollywood Foreign Press Association’s votes for the Golden Globes…. I think it goes without saying that staying at the guest cottage of your subject’s house is highly suspect and deeply unethical.”
I have to confess I felt a little foolish reading this, because it had never quite occurred to me to think of these pieces as journalism, exactly — I thought of them as a form of publicity and marketing. PW has always been a chummy publication, serving a chummy industry. Maybe that’s a factor contributing to book publishing’s recent difficulties. Champion makes us imagine the possibility of things being different.