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Using Your Column to Promote a Colleague's Book

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by YankeeFan, Jul 12, 2009.

  1. YankeeFan

    YankeeFan Well-Known Member

    Today's Mike Vaccaro column in the New York Post is about Thurman Munson, but might as well be an advertorial for Marty Appel's new book about Munson:


    The end of Mike's column has a tag mentioning that Mike will have a new book out this fall.

    A quick search show's that both books are being published by Doubleday, a Random House company.



    Shouldn't the column have included a note for full disclosure mentioning that the author and subject share a publisher?

    And if you're an editor, might you suggest that a simple recommendation is appropriate, but that you can't turn your column into part of the sales effort for your friend & colleague's book?
  2. 21

    21 Well-Known Member

    It's his column, he can praise (or rip) whatever he wants. Didn't seem over the top or inappropriate at all. I could see your point if the book/column was irrelevant to the readership, but he's talking about Thurman Munson and Yankees Old-Timers Day. Seems like a pretty good fit.

    As for disclosing that they have the same publisher...seems pretty irrelevant.
  3. The Big Ragu

    The Big Ragu Moderator Staff Member

    That is some serious hand wringing over nothing, in my opinion.

    Vaccaro won't profit if Appel's book does well. If that was the case, then sure, there is a conflict of interest. But why would Vacarro have a stake in selling books for Marty Appel? Vaccaro's book deal is going to be contingent on HIS books selling well (which is why he is plugging his book in his column).

    Using the standard you are suggesting, every column written by anyone that mentions anyone they personally know, or some venture that is even loosely tied to a company they have ever drawn a check from (but don't personally profit from) would merit some disclosure that bogged down every page of copy. And it wouldn't serve any purpose.

    We can very safely assume several things here: 1) Vaccaro probably personally knows Appel. Appel knows everyone. He is outgoing and he is a PR guy. 2) Vaccaro saw an opportunity to write a column about the 30th anniversary of Munson's death. It's timely. 3) Vaccaro apparently liked Appel's book, just as he liked Jonathan Eig's "Luckiest Man."

    If you stand to personally profit from something, yeah, you shouldn't be plugging it. And if it is in there, there should be blaring disclosure lights around it. But in this case? I don't see what the conflict of interest is. Vaccaro isn't enriched if Appel's book sells. Vaccaro doesn't get anything if Random House sells any books OTHER than his own, does he?
  4. YankeeFan

    YankeeFan Well-Known Member

    I'm a fan of Vaccaro -- and a bigger fan of Munson -- and yes, Marty knows everybody. Even I know him from when I coached Little League 20 years ago.

    And Ragu and 21 might both be right.

    It just reminded me of situations like when 60 Minutes does a story about a book published by a corporate sibling.

    Without full disclosure, it makes me worry that someone at Doubleday promised a little more support for Vaccaro's book if he could use his column to promote Appel's book. No, that's too strong. It makes me worry that such a thought could occur to me.

    It also just seemed like a harder sell than I'm used to seeing. It wasn't, "this is a great book." It was, "you need to go out and buy this book right now."

    And writing about Munson in anticipation of Old Timer's day is fine, but by pushing the book so hard, it made the whole column seem contrived.
  5. henryhenry

    henryhenry Member

    ragu, you don't know anything about vaccaro's deal.

    and besides, it doesn't have to be written into the deal.

    if vaccarro shills for doubleday books, it probably helps him on his own deal.

    if he shills for appel, watch and see how appel shills for his book - it's kind of a barter system.

    how come people on this board are draconian about plagiarism, which is the 'death penalty' offense, but are soooo soft on obvious conflicts of interest. at the very least vaccaro should have made full disclosure. this stuff is way more corrosive to 'sports journalism' - such as it is - than plagiarism.
  6. Jersey_Guy

    Jersey_Guy Active Member

    When I was writing a column, there were times other media members in the market would send me advance copies of the book with a personal note. No one flat-out asked for a plug, but the implication was obvious. For the most part, the books were sports junk food, the kind of quick-buck regurgitation that would be forgotten in six months.

    When one arrived, however, that was meticulously researched and taught me things about the subject that I hadn't know before, I wrote glowingly about it, because I knew it would interest the readership greatly. I see no problem with this, because despite the fact the author and I had a personal relationship, there was no gain for me, and the book was terrific.
  7. The Big Ragu

    The Big Ragu Moderator Staff Member

    I don't like the, "You must go out and buy this book" thing either. Always rubs me wrong. When Larry King had his USA Today column, every book ever written was the greatest since the first printing of the bible. And every author he ever shared a meal with at Morton's was the second-coming of Faulkner. Me and some friends used to keep track of his book plugs and laugh at his over-the-top superlatives.

    But that stuff making me want to puke has nothing to do with any perceived conflict of interest (even though in Larry King's case, I wouldn't be totally floored if I found out about any).
  8. The Big Ragu

    The Big Ragu Moderator Staff Member

    Nope, don't know a thing about Vaccaro's deal. I can still guess with reasonable certainty that he has NO financial stake in Appel's book selling. If you can connect any sort of dots like that, I'll listen to a "conflict of interest" case.

    You can take what you are saying to any ridiculous extreme. Vaccaro is a writer. If he plugs ANY book, you can argue there is a conflict of interest, and claim he is trying to curry favor with a publisher who might someday give him a book deal. In my opinion, that is a really ridiculous standard.

    You really think there is anything going on here that is more corrosive than plagiarism? Really? If that is the way you see things, I respectfully agree to disagree.
  9. Ben_Hecht

    Ben_Hecht Active Member

    This is (as Spy used to say) Logrolling In Our Time.

    Twas ever thus. Twas ever will be.

    Bucking it is like bucking the tides.
  10. The Big Ragu

    The Big Ragu Moderator Staff Member

    Ben_Hecht makes a FANTASTIC reference to "Logrolling In Our Time"! I laughed, I cried, I chuckled until I nearly died. Three stars, a must read post!
  11. clutchcargo

    clutchcargo Active Member

    Question is, has Vaccaro ever written any other column in which the topic also happened to be related to a new book coming out around the same time, and mentioned that book as well? If not, why not?

    Some sort of disclosure about sharing publishers would have been ethical. It's not a trivial thing, nor is it a huge deal. It's just one more example, albeit a small one perhaps, why mjuch of what we do has lost credibility with readers.

    It's like SI---whenever they mention a new book or even review one coming out, I just roll my eyes because 99% of the time it's one of their own writers or some sort of deal under the same media conglomerate umbrella. Sure, any entity should promote its own product---good business, blah, blah, blah. But at the exclusion of all else??? That's a disservice to readers who expect SI to be secure enough in itself to go beyond exclusively self-promotion. Just like all those stories in which their writers interject themselves in to the story, somehting John Garrity does about 3 or 4 times a year. It really gets tiresome and weak.
  12. shockey

    shockey Active Member

    i'm admittedly very biased because i adore vac. anyone who knows him would also attest he's above these "conflict" accusations.

    he reads books. if he likes them, is moved by them, he encourages people to check it out. no diff than oprah, right?

    vac was a young fan when thurman was killed. munson's tale is a compelling one to every young n.y. baseball fan of the '70's. we've become waaaay too nitpicky here, methinks.

    no. harm. here. whatsoever. in most conflict of interests or full disclosure cases there is something sinister to be detected. i see nothing sinister on this one.
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