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

  • Andrew Beaujon

    Andrew Beaujon reported on the media for Poynter from 2012 to 2015. He was previously arts editor at and managing editor of Washington City Paper. He's the author of the 2006 book "Body Piercing Saved My Life," about Christian rock and evangelical Christian culture.


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