From Joe Konrath’s blog:
By now you’ve seen the NYT Public Editor’s piece criticizing her own newspaper’s coverage of the Amazon/Hachette situation.
Note to David Streitfeld: see what Margaret Sullivan did? Being a competent reporter, she researched the situation and presented both sides of the story. That means quotes from authors representing both sides, and quotes from the very source (you) she was critical of.
She’s an excellent, smart, fair journalist, Mr. Streitfeld. Put your hat in your hand and go thank her. After you have, ask her for some pointers.
As well done as the piece was, Ms. Sullivan did write something that I didn’t agree with.
“A pro-Amazon author (Barry Eisler) charges that the paper is spewing propaganda…“propaganda” is a stretch…”
Is it really a stretch? Let’s dig a little deeper.
Grab some munchies, folks.
First, some terminology:
Propaganda is information that is not impartial and used primarily to influence an audience and further an agenda, often by presenting facts selectively (thus possibly lying by omission) to encourage a particular synthesis, or using loaded messages to produce an emotional rather than rational response to the information presented.
Hyperlinked in that definition is “impartial” which leads to a wiki about journalistic objectivity:
Journalistic objectivity can refer to fairness, disinterestedness, factuality, and nonpartisanship, but most often encompasses all of these qualities.
Also linked is “lying by omission”:
Also known as a continuing misrepresentation, a lie by omission occurs when an important fact is left out in order to foster a misconception. Lying by omission includes failures to correct pre-existing misconceptions.
And “loaded messages”:
In rhetoric, loaded language (also known as loaded terms or emotive language) is wording that attempts to influence an audience by using appeal to emotion or stereotypes.
Next, Joe dissects his target:
Streitfeld: Among Amazon’s tactics against Hachette, some of which it has been employing for months, are charging more for its books and suggesting that readers might enjoy instead a book from another author.
Joe sez: Amazon “charging more for its books” actually means Amazon is charging Hachette’s suggested retail price. Amazon suggesting that readers might enjoy a book from another author “instead” is unproven. Amazon advertises other authors’ books on every book page. This isn’t unique to Hachette. Amazon also offers used books for considerably less than the price of the new version, on the very same page. (buy Whiskey Sour for only $0.01!) But where has Amazon said “Buy this instead of this”?The word “instead” is loaded.
Streitfeld: The scorched-earth tactics arose
Joe sez: Scorched-earth? Misrepresentation, and loaded.
Streitfeld: “Outliers” was selling Friday for $15.29, a mere 10 percent discount. On Barnes & Noble, the book was $12.74.
Joe sez: See how the word “mere” is not impartial? No mention that many indie bookstores don’t discount at all.
Plenty more line by line dissection.
A tad of whimsy included:
More newsworthiness: Amazon Stops Taking Orders for Time Warner Videos.
Both Amazon and Warner declined to comment on what is simply a negotiation between two businesses. But Streitfeld managed to write 600 words about it, fanning the anti-Amazon sentiment fire he’s been building.
But wait! Maybe Streitfeld actually had a reason to call this newsworthy.
Streitfeld: “Considering all the press regarding Hachette it seems strange that no one is reporting this,” one commentator wrote on the Amazon forum.
Joe sez: Now I see! An anonymous commenter on an Amazon forum wanted this reported, so the NYT devoted a whole column to it.
I can imagine Streitfeld pitching this story.
INT. NYT OFFICE, DAY
A serious looking David Streitfeld speaks to his editor, Suzanne Spector.
Streitfeld: The haven’t been any developments in the Amazon/Hachette dispute in a few days. But I’ve got a new angle.
Spector: Do tell.
Spector: I’m not even touching you.
Streitfeld: No, not “let go”. I mean The Lego Movie. Huge hit, but Amazon isn’t selling any pre-orders of the movie. In fact, it isn’t taking advance orders on any Warner movies.
Spector: So Amazon not selling something that isn’t available is news?
Streitfeld: When you say it that way you make me sound stupid.
Spector: I’m sorry. I know you don’t need help in that area.
Streitfeld: Don’t you get it? Amazon is doing the same thing that they did to Hachette.
Spector: Sounds like two businesses in negotiation.
Streitfeld: It is. That’s what Warner said, before declining to comment.
Spector: So what’s the spin? You’re all about authors being harmed by Amazon in the Hachette dispute. Are you thinking Lego Batman is being harmed by Amazon now?
Streitfeld: No. That would be silly. Lego Batman is too busy fighting Lego crime to care.
Spector: So who does care, exactly?
Streitfeld: A lone anonymous commenter on an Amazon forum.
Spector: Run it!
(I’m thinking Joe should write a screenplay for a madcap comedy, 30’s style. His wit is wasted on Streitfeld.)
Naturally, no Streitfeld dissection is complete without his signature logic:
It’s worth noting that one of the earmarks of propaganda is dehumanizing the enemy and creating false images.
So 900 established authors mean much more than 8600 authors and readers. Makes no difference that some of the 8600 signatories on the anti-Hachette petition were authors who outsell many of the 900 signatories. Makes no difference that the anti-Hachette petition included readers, whose opinions don’t seem to matter even though the anti-Amazon petition purported to be on behalf of readers.
Instead, Streitfeld points out that more people care about dolphins than books, but somehow doesn’t think that’s a false equivalency.
Then he says he’s “on no side here”.
You dismissed a petition with whale math, Streitfeld. Of course you’re taking sides.
It’s a long one folks. And worthy.