flanagan and bremmer to enroll in research methods 101
Sepoy left a link to the CJR record of an ongoing discussion between Travers' biographer Valerie Lawson and New Yorker editorial staff under the comments to my post on the Brandenn Bremmer story. Essentially, as the Columbia Journalism Review sums it up,
"In the current New Yorker is a letter to the editor from Valerie Lawson, in response to Caitlin Flanagan’s December 19 article on Pamela Travers, the creator of Mary Poppins. Lawson is the author of a biography of Travers, and her letter reads like a relatively benign effort to make clear the decades-long effort by Poppins scholars to tease out Travers’s elusive life story. It did not begin that way, as this lengthy — and not so benign — e-mail thread between Lawson and editors at The New Yorker shows. The exchange offers a glimpse at the sausage-factory aspect of how the magazine handles complaints, and raises interesting questions about what journalists owe, in terms of recognition, to their sources."
Flanagan isn't required to show us, or Lawson, or anyone but the quite protective NYer staff anything like a bibliography because this is popular journalism. Blogging is even less responsible, and this blog especially so (Chocolate Lady, however, is very good about citing things, which is interesting because cookbooks are a very touchy sort of publication issue). But if Flanagan did the research herself, or relied heavily upon Lawson's work, or the work of other scholars, we'll never know. My bets are that Flanagan was sloppy and took certain facts for granted as public knowledge that aren't widely published . . . I mean, Flanagan's idea of research is to refer to herself and her experiences and maybe those of her friends . . .
I'm quite paranoid about this issue because my dissertation relies on both popular biographies (written with archival research but without footnotes) and archival research in the same archives and a lot of messy stuff that I hope I'm responsible about.
Does it say how the CJR got copies of this correspondence?
On the other hand, when it suits me, I'm not a big believer in intellectual property rights. Especially when it comes to visual materials. I use uncredited google images all the time to illustrate intro film lectures . . . But maybe that's just like shoplifting from the mall?
Still, I got really upset when a fellow grad student had me explain something to her and then she explained it to the class during our seminar presentation, without acknowledging that I'd sketched it out for her . . .
And I've got that nominal copyright button on this blog. Obviously, when someone is taking advantage of labor done by someone else, I guess I'm a little uncomfortable with that. Oddly, it is rather like housework (or recipes). Intellectual labor could be imagined as non-economic (any labor could, but academic labor and housework more often are), but as long as we are working within capitalism you'd better pay somebody something (even if its just respect, or give them "credit") because that's how we value labor . . .
On on yet another hand, I think that even in an economy that uses scarcity to produce value, libraries and publishers and even authors usually benefit from the illicit proliferation of information and materials to which they have sole possession. With or without explicit mention of the title of her work, Lawson will probably get more readers as a result of the publicity afforded by Flanagan's piece.
So, how do we feel about my taking a photo of this image, by Frank T. Merrill, from Little Women? And posting it here?
Categories: literary, material, newyorker, books, interest/excitement