To see what is in front of one's nose needs a constant struggle.
--- George Orwell
Wednesday, February 13, 2019
Questions About 'Merchants of Truth' That Jill Abramson Just Won’t Answer
To: Jill Abramson
Fr: William McGowan
Hi Jill: As I've said in my voicemails over the past two or three days, I'm thinking abt doing something on the problematics of your book and wonder whether I can speak to you on the phone abt that.
I'd like to focus on the role that John Stillman played in assisting you in "the research, reporting, writing and editing," as you say in yr acknowledgements. From my own experience publishing three fact-heavy works of nonfiction, two abt the media, this seems to be an angle that might illuminate where some of the trouble might have originated. Nothing went wrong with my books, even the one that closed during the 9/11 crisis. But we who do this for a living know that a lot can go sideways in the final crunch and that research assistants, copy editors and fact-checkers are key.
In other words, having gone through the mill before, I can offer my empathy. You've been the object of some deserved criticism. You've already been the object of some cheap shots. Pls know there will be no cheap shots fr here. I do recall something you said abt "authors of books nobody reads," but since i can't find it online to determine whether you might have said this abt me (Coloring The News or Gray Lady Down?), let's just let that pass.
What I'd like to know specifically is:
*How much was Stillman involved in the actual writing of some of the book, ie which sections?
*Whether he fact-checked the sections on VICE specifically w Gavin McInnes and Thomas Morton who seem to have some bones to pick abt the accuracy of the book;
*Whether you composed, fact-checked & proofread your final running footnotes or delegated these chores to Stillman or someone else;
*Whether Stillman relied on handwritten notes to fact-check, write or edit and/or whether he worked fr typed versions of these notes that someone might have prepared for him;
*Whether you expect to be involved, or are currently involved in, the process of corrections and fixes that you has promised are underway and how much of the book will be adjusted, as in how many pages in all;
*What kind of recommendation Steve Brill gave Stillman when you was screening candidates for the assistant position;
*Whether any of the issues raised in the wake of the claims abt the book's plagiarism might put Stillman in any kind of contractual liability in addition to any legal issues you yourself might have with the "warrant" you signed as part of the contract with the publisher.
*Why Stillman is so unavailable for questions and why you would hire such an idiosyncratic character, at least judging from his website & twitter. I mean I hate to make an assessment like this remotely, but the guy comes off, on line anyway, as a bit of a slacker.
*How much you paid Stillman?
*Also: non-Stillman, whether you are liable to any academic sanction fr Harvard and/or whether you expect any?
Please know I have also reached out to Stillman for answers to these questions and hope to speak with S&S publicity people too.
Best regards & thanks.
Fr: Jill Abramson
To: William McGowan
I own all the mistakes and sloppy footnoting.
I have corrected them and will continue to.i have tried to personally contact the writers whose work I failed to credit to apologize directly
I have no comment except to repeat what’s in the acknowledgment about my great team, whose work was uniformly superlative