Thursday, June 12, 2008

Ghostwriter Causes Columnist to Resign

By Rick Pearcey

In an email titled "Ghostwriter Causes Newspaper Columnist to Resign," an alert reader sent us this amazing story of publishing malpractice:

Well-known San Antonio Express-News music writer and columnist Ramiro Burr, facing allegations that he hired a ghostwriter to produce more than 100 stories and columns since 2001, tendered his resignation Tuesday afternoon as the newspaper’s investigation into this and other violations of the newspaper’s ethics policies by Burr was drawing to a conclusion. Burr, 52, covered the local and international music scene for the past 25 years. He worked for the San Antonio Light from 1983 until the Light folded in 1993 and has been with the Express-News since. He is also a local correspondent for Billboard magazine and in 1999 wrote a book, the Billboard Guide to Tejano and Regional Mexican Music.

“Ramiro caused the Express-News to unknowingly publish work under his name that was not, in fact, his own work,” said Robert Rivard, editor of the Express-News.

“It was the work of at least one other writer who did not receive credit and who we did not know about. Ramiro decided on his own to resign just as our investigation was concluding and we were preparing to take appropriate action. We have a zero-tolerance policy whenever someone on our staff presents work as their own that is not their own.” . . .

Simple honesty, not to mention respect for our readers, is one of the reasons The Pearcey Report and Pro-Existence are "Ghostwriting-Free Zones."

We do not knowingly publish or link to work in which the putative author has lied, cheated, or stolen to get his or her name on an article or book. Would that a similar principle affirming authorial integrity would apply to those (staff, free-lancers, "ministry partners," etc.) who enable this sort of regrettable, disrespectful, and regressive behavior.

And by the way, having a contract legalizing this unethical practice does not make it right. Rather, it just deepens the hypocrisy and furthers the corruption. Remember what your parents told you: Two wrongs don't make a right.

We are aware, of course, that this sort of deception happens outside of Christian circles, among the "pagans," as it were. We are also aware, from personal observation and via news reports, that this malpractice, unhappily, also occurs inside Christian circles. By this means, if unrebuffed or winked at, sin is introduced into one's methods of doing business. "Ministries" may be "blessed" as a result, but you may want to examine the source of the "blessing."

Faked blurbs, ghostwritten columns (and radio commentary), and pretend authorial masterworks are part of a spiritual dynamic decidedly unbiblical, inhumane, and ineffective. Not doing the Lord's work in the Lord's way in the area of publishing may help raise millions and create an empire for a "respected" Christian celebrity. But the Lord's name is taken in vain, and a watching world knowingly laughs and easily reduces Christian activism to just another play for power.

Want an example of a strategic spiritual blunder in the culture war? This is it. By no means is it alone among our challenges or the end of the world per se -- but it does indicate that the opportunity for a "Reformation of Manners" in Christian circles is rich indeed.

If the name of your favorite Christian "author" or "columnist" does not appear on the pages of The Pearcey Report or Pro-Existence, it may be part of our humble effort to show respect for work well done by real people, work that does not defraud readers and misdirect their time, money, and energies. Getting a momentary buzz because a "Big Name" "weighed in" doesn't cut it.

"Real work by real people" seems a sound principle flowing from a high view of truth, a respect for the individual, and a heartfelt desire to live with a measure of intellectual and creative integrity, and honest community, before and with the living Creator.

Plagiarism: Pretend People, Fake Work
Oxford, Cambridge, Plagiarism, and Christian Worldview
I'll Take Sartre
Human Identity, Biblical Worldview, Creativity, and the Meaning of Work

Rick Pearcey is editor and publisher of The Pearcey Report (articles).

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