The New Yorker, USA Today deny J.K. Rowling quote approval

The New Yorker | The Independent | USA Today
Ian Parker’s profile of J.K. Rowling in The New Yorker says the author “sought quote approval, which was not given.” Parker writes that while preparing to interview Rowling, “I read ‘The Casual Vacancy,’ which is five hundred and twelve pages long, in the New York offices of Little, Brown, after signing a non-disclosure agreement whose first draft—later revised—had prohibited me from taking notes.”

He also relays a story about Rowling and a London Times profile in 2003:

When the London Times interviewed her in 2003, it was asked to sign a contract that, according to an account later written by Brian MacArthur, then the paper’s executive editor, “stipulated precisely when the interview would occur and who would be the interviewer and photographer; how and where it would be advertised and promoted in the paper and on radio; and gave Rowling full approval of captions, headlines, straplines, line drawings, graphics, headings, advance trails, quotes and photographs.” Just before publication, there was a gruelling, six-hour argument in the Times offices about what, exactly, was meant by “quote approval.”

The Independent’s Matthew Bell says the publication of Rowling’s new novel, “The Casual Vacancy,” shows “the ruthless, bullying side of publishing that has become all too common.”

My colleague, Katy Guest, our literary editor, was asked to sign a non-disclosure agreement before her reviewer could be “hand-delivered” a copy of the book. Embargoes are normal, but within the legalese, Guest found a clause stating that even the existence of the agreement could not be mentioned. …

Even more absurd, perhaps, was the clause that came with Salman Rushdie’s book Joseph Anton, A Memoir, about life under a fatwa. Random House reserved the right to charge €200,000 (£160,000) to anyone they suspected of leaking. They generously reduced this to €175,000 when we asked.

I asked USA Today if the 2007 interview Carol Memmott did with Rowling, mentioned at the foot of an article published Sunday about “The Casual Vacancy,” was published under strictures. Memmott said no one asked in 2007 and it was not offered. As for the 2012 stories, she emailed, “The answer is absolutely not. That holds true for the interview we will publish tomorrow. Her UK people asked for quote approval but we said no, and they backed off.”

Related: “It would be easy simply to say journalists shouldn’t run quotes by those they’ve interviewed. Ever. But as in so much of journalism (and life), it’s not that simple.” (The Huffington Post) | New York Times bans quote approval after industry controversy

We have made it easy to comment on posts, however we require civility and encourage full names to that end (first initial, last name is OK). Please read our guidelines here before commenting.

  • Anonymous

    RE: Embargos and confidentiality, over at RealClimate blog, a science reporting blog, Gavin Schmitt makes this comment: related: ”This post is not about climate science, but rather about the science/media interface.” ”As many of you may be aware, papers that are scheduled to appear in high-profile journals (Science, Nature and a few others) are often released a few days early to journalists under embargo in order to give them a chance to do a fuller story and talk to more people about it prior to filing. On balance, this works reasonably well, and the press stories that come out are on the whole better for it (there is a bigger issue with the need for a news peg for most science stories that this practice dominates, but that isn’t the focus of this post). ”But Carl Zimmer and Maggie Koerth-Baker recently reported on a situation where a high profile paper was only provided to journalists under embargo if they signed a non-disclosure agreement restricting their ability to show it to other scientists for comment. ”This is both very unusual and, frankly, appalling. Science and science publishing are not a branch of the PR industry but part of an open and self-critical process of inquiry. Authors and scientists who do not want their results discussed and/or criticised should not submit them for publication in the first place. As Koerth-Baker and Zimmer make clear, articles about new papers that are simply reworded official statements are not journalism at all. Indeed, the need for journalists to get an unaffiliated opinion from the author’s peers is an essential check on the occasional tendency of press releases to go over the top when pushing a particular study, and is something that should be happening more, not less. ”This post is really just about putting on record that this is not a practice that ‘scientists’ are advocating for and we, like the journalists linked above, would strongly advise that if such conditions are imposed, journalists, journals and editors do not accede to them. That will help resolve the issue of whether ‘no publicity’ is indeed preferable.”

  • Brian O’Connor

    “It would be easy simply to say journalists shouldn’t run quotes by those they’ve interviewed. Ever. But as in so much of journalism (and life), it’s not that simple.”

    Quote approval is NOT “running quotes by” anyone, but giving them final control over what goes into your publication and taking it away from the writer, editor and publisher, in exchange for “access” to somebody who wants to use you like a cheap hooker.

    And, yeah, it’s easy. Real damn easy. “Thanks, but we don’t do that. And we’re still doing the story, with or without you, and if you want to represent your viewpoint, then talk to us.”