High Society – The kind of press you don’t need

Eoin Purcell

UPDATE: THIS IS GETTING QUITE CONFUSING NOW. I WAS ON LUNCHTIME WITH EAMON KEANE COMMENTING ABOUT IT. MY ONLY TASK WAS TO SAY WHAT I WOULD HAVE DONE IF PRESENTED WITH THE BOOK. I’M FAIRLY SURE G&M DID EVERYTHING I SUGGESTED.


Publishing is about risk

The risk of losing money and of a book flopping, the risk of missing the market and in some cases, the risk of believing someone you shouldn’t and taking the brunt of that when your error is uncovered. This has blown up in publishers faces recently. The James Frey episode being a glaring example of it. What seemed a true and exciting memoir was in fact an embellished, only partly true account.

There is no evidence that that is what has happened in the case of Gill & MacMillan’s recent book The High Society. In this case, it seems not to be a case of lying. By the account of RTÉ and G&M there are, at the very least, contemporaneous notes about every interview conducted for the book and accompanying TV series. That satisfies me if not others, we have always trusted journalists notes and I don’t see why we shouldn’t in this instance.

But it still must be unsettling when stories like this one emerge about a very controversial book:

RTÉ and Gill & Macmillan declined requests to see interview transcripts claiming confidentiality agreements, but they both said they remained confident about the authenticity of the material.

And when the follow up is a clip of the author on radio saying something that turns out not to be the case, its damn worrying. After all, we operate on a trusting basis with most authors and we rely on their word.

Feeling a little bad for G&M, RTÉ and Justine Delany-Wilson today, the whole affair strikes me as a concentrated effort to bring doubt onto a book that challenged the “great”, the “good” and the powerful in Ireland to face up to and tackle our Drugs problem (though the whole thing will most like sell more books).
Eoin

Advertisements

2 comments

  1. Eoin – Every journalist is entitled, if not morally bound, to protect his or her sources. That’s a given, except in exceptional circumstances. But what are Justine Delaney-Wilson’s credentials as a journalist? What organisations has she worked for (other than RTE, in the role as researcher)? What work has she published in the past that suggests she has the investigative ability to elicit confessions of cocaine addiction from nuns, priests, pilots and government ministers, or to persuade a coke dealer to take her on his ’rounds’? These questions are important in establishing credibility. If, say, Olivia O’Leary or Miriam O’Callaghan were to make such claims, and then insist on protecting her anonymous sources, they would be entitled to expect us to take their word on their findings – although they would hardly need to, as it’s highly unlikely that any experienced journalist would destroy corroborative evidence for such controversial claims. In the absence of definitive proof and verifiable sources, which Gill and Macmillan and RTE have now admitted to, the kindest possible assessment of HIGH SOCIETY is that it was a situationist prank that has gone badly wrong.

  2. Declan,

    I think you make a fair enough point.
    But what if Delaney-Wilson’s anonymity was why people talked to her. There is a good case for thinking that if Charlie Bird, Olivia O’Leary or Miriam O’Callaghan WERE interviewing you about cocaine use, you’d keep your mouth shut, precisely because you know their pedigree.
    I think this will run until she gets back from NZ. Interesting update here re her NEW solicitor:
    http://www.indymedia.ie/article/85167

    Eoin

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s