John Freeman — Ethical Reviewer

Here’s an ethical question for you — a query not rooted in malice, but in a curiosity and concern for journalistic integrity. If your partner is a literary agent representing Jonathan Safran Foer, Manil Suri, Edwidge Danticat, and Junot Díaz, do you recuse yourself from reviewing or interviewing their books?

John Freeman interviewed Jonathan Safran Foer in 2005. Personally, I see no problem with interviewing an author who is a friend or an associate, provided one holds one’s questions to the same probing journalistic standards. (A few friends and associates have been interviewed for The Bat Segundo Show, but I always inform them that I’m not going to offer them softball questions. And they know what they’re in for with me.)

Reviewing books, on the other hand, is a more clear-cut ethical scenario. I have dug around. Unless I am missing something, it appears that Freeman has avoided reviewing any of Nicole Aragi’s clients since 2004. So I must commend Freeman for maintaining an ethically honest reviewing practice.

[UPDATE: Before other parties blow this out of proportion, Freeman leaves this comment at Mark’s:

Hpp — to answer your question, sadly, yes, which is a shame because it means no more Colson Whitehead, Thuy Le The Diem, Edwidge Danticat, Viktor Pelevin, Jonathan Safran Foer, Junot Diaz. It also means I’ve had to recuse myself in voting at the NBCC sometimes. Occasionally, an English or overseas newspaper will ask me to interview one of Nicole’s clients — Jonathan Safran Foer, say — and have said go ahead after I explain the connection. But I don’t seek those assignments out.

]

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