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Got Fooled Again

I listen to a lot of NPR via podcast, including On Point.  Tom Ashbrook is a very good moderator who keeps the discussion moving.  Yesterday's show got me thinking:

WBUR & NPR's On Point : Bogus Memoirs, Book Publishers, and Us

I listened to the show last week with the author of what turned out to be a bogus memoir.  The author was compelling and drew a lot of sympathy.  She was a mixed race woman who had grown up in the projects of LA, caught up in gangs and drug trade.  Or, so she claimed.

It turns out that the whole book and her claims were bogus.  She lied about everything.  Today, On Point addressed the issue of bogus memoirs, and it made me think about journalistic standards in general, including bloggers.

Some journalists have complained that bloggers aren't held to the same standards as more conventional journalists.  To be sure, you don't know how accurate anything is that you read.  These bogus memoirs drive home the point that this isn't only an Internet phenomenon.  Liars and frauds have been with us for a long time.

The only solution is for people to build up and defend their reputations and for frauds to be exposed for all to see.  In this case, Tom Ashbrook clearly felt horrible about being fooled.  Kudos to him for coming forward immediately and apologizing.  He's defending his reputation.  Maybe publishers of non-fiction should do more diligence on their authors.  But, of course, they can't fact check an entire book.  This memoir may have been exposed, but what if the author had just exaggerated and embellished her otherwise true story?  There's no way you can expect a publisher to catch that.  It would be too expensive.

Democratizing media has its risks, but it's still better to have all the new voices.  We all just have to be vigilent about who we believe.


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