Can Houghton Mifflin Handle the Truth?

Some distressing news from Publisher’s Lunch. The ironically named Committee for Truth in Psychiatry has sued Houghton Mifflin and writer Daniel Smith for $20 million in punitive damages. The suit comes about because Smith’s investigative piece on electroshock treatment appeared in The Best Science and Nature Writing, 2002.

Even if this suit is settled or dismissed, there’s still the larger issue of whether hard-hitting exposes will appear in Houghton Mifflin’s compilations. Will Houghton Mifflin backpedal on future selected essays? Even if the author were to prove all of the facts were on his side, my fear here is that tomorrow’s compilations will be fluff that maintains the status quo.

[1/21/06 UPDATE: It is difficult to determine what happened with this suit, for there has been no news reported during the past two years. The CTIP website looks like it hasn’t been updated since early 2004. A Google search reveals only Ron Hogan and myself dwelling upon the lawsuit. I’ve sent off an email to Natalie Angier, who edited The Best American Science and Nature Writing 2002, to see if she knows anything. Should I hear back from her or get any leads, I’ll report it in a followup post.]