On (not) giving credit where itís due
BY DAN KENNEDY
This past Tuesday, the Boston Globeís David Mehegan profiled Francis McInerney, a bookworm from South Hadley whose prodigious output of unpaid reviews for Amazon.com had earned him a spot on the companyís list of top-10 " most helpful " reviewers.
But it was the missing detail that caught some observersí eye: the fact that McInerney had been profiled just a few weeks ago in the New Yorkerís " Talk of the Town " section. A comparison of the two pieces shows that Mehegan clearly did his own reporting. Still, wouldnít it have been more sporting if Mehegan had noted the earlier piece?
" It was actually one of those odd misunderstandings between a writer and an editor, " explains Mehegan. He describes the sequence this way. Originally, he turned in what he calls a " lighter and shorter " version that gave the New Yorker prominent credit. Assistant Living editor Steve Greenlee told him that he wanted more detail, and ó by the way ó whatís with the big New Yorker reference?
Mehegan took Greenleeís comments to mean that he didnít want to see the New Yorker mentioned at all, so he took it out. Yet when the piece was published, Greenlee told him that the New Yorker should have been in there, just not as prominently as it was in his first draft.
Says Greenlee: " He and I simply misunderstood each other. I didnít notice on my last read of the story that he had taken it out. " He adds that the New Yorker should have been in there not just to give credit where it was due, but because " itís an important facet of the story. "
A local blog, SurfaceCity.net, gave the Globe a poke on Tuesday, observing that " itís hard to conclude that the Globe articleís genesis canít be found in the May 5 issue of the New Yorker. " True enough. Whatís ironic, though, is that Mehegan says he didnít even read the New Yorker piece. The reason? He didnít want his own article to be influenced by the earlier work.
Sounds like a case of good intentions gone awry.
Issue Date: May 23 - 29, 2003
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