Ethical Transparency

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An author who I will not name sent me his book, along with a cash amount intended as a donation to this site. I’m happy to accept donations for anyone who considers this site to be of value to them. And I’m sure that this author meant well. But because this donation came with a book, I do not feel that it would be ethical for me to accept the cash. It implies that I must take a look at his book without a honest and scrupulous eye. Therefore, I will be returning the cash by mail to this author.

At an event, I was asked by a publicist to take a photo. “I’ll pay you for it,” said this publicist. Sure this would have been helpful to me, particularly since I am currently scraping by here in Brooklyn from one gig to another. But I demurred. Because to accept cash from a publicist would imply that my perspective can be irreversibly colored by the Almighty Dollar. At BookExpo, another publicist told me that he could send me audio clips of authors to me and that, together, “we might be able to construct an interview.” I am not in the business of “constructing” interviews or designing questions for preprogrammed answers. That is not journalism. That is corruption. And it is not fair to all parties.

I do not care if I am forced to live on a diet of Top Ramen or if I must pay my rent by sifting through the coins in my piggy bank. I would sooner pump gas or work retail somewhere than allow myself to be corrupted like this. Let it stand for the record that my opinion cannot be purchased. If a media outlet deems me fit enough to write an opinion piece, then this is fine. I am happy to be hired. I also see no problem with advertising, provided that the advertising is clearly separated from the content. I also do not see any problems with donations, likewise separated from any implied quid pro quo. But I would not be able to live with myself if I knew that what I was writing was tainted by money. Indeed, there would be absolutely no point to what I do.

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