Thursday, May 30, 2013

The Ethical Book Reviewer

Are book critics due for a code of ethics? According to a panel held at Book Expo America, running now through June 1 in New York City, whether one is needed or not, getting critics to agree on what’s missing is no easy task. Lily Rothman reports for TIME:
It was a topic that, because of one obvious reason, provoked lots of spirited debate, As of now, book reviewers have no set of guiding principles. Sure, publications and individual writers have vague ideas about what’s okay, but the National Book Critics Circle (NBCC) has not adopted a set of ethical guidelines. Yet. After conducting a survey of members of the industry—the data from which will be available in the fall—and holding events like the BEA panel, the NBCC will issue its ethical best practices.
It’s difficult for anyone to even agree on some of the basics. For example, what does the word “objective” really mean?
For one thing, even the words that might be used need definitions. In the world of criticism, where opinion is key, what does it mean to be objective? Maureen Corrigan, a participant and the book critic for NPR’s Fresh Air, clarified that objectivity, impartiality and fairness are three very different things: a critic can be honest and up-front about her biases without abandoning her personal taste. The survey (a few tidbits of which were revealed at the panel) also revealed that different people have different ideas about which part of a reviewer’s background would cause him to be automatically biased.
You can see the full piece here. Meanwhile, BEA continues at the Javits Center until Saturday.



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