The Messenger's Role
Kevin Salwen on Ethics
There are so many fascinating ethical issues floating around these days. The Ken Lay trial is starting. James Frey is confessing. Lies, little and big, seem to be appearing almost daily.
I find myself intrigued by the role of the conduit. Yesterday, the New York Times ran this piece about eBay, raising questions about what responsibility the online marketplace has in assuring that products are legitimate. In one case, Tiffany bought 200 'Tiffany' pieces on eBay and found that 75% of them were fakes. As a company making money from these transactions, does eBay have a responsibility to assure their veracity? Does the feedback system do enough (ever seen anyone with less than 85% good feeback, btw?)?
Then today, the Wall Street Journal ran this piece on Nan Talese, the publisher of James Frey's A Million Little Pieces. It includes this section:
Unlike journalists, publishers have never seen it as their purview to verify that the information in nonfiction books is true. Editors and publishers say the profit-margins in publishing don't allow for hiring fact-checkers. Instead, they rely on authors to be honest, and on their legal staffs to avoid libel suits. 'An author brings a manuscript saying it represents the truth, and that relationship is one of trust,' says Ms. Talese.
What role do messengers have? What role should they have?