The New York Times has been taking a lot of well deserved guff over the last couple of years for obtaining and publishing classified national security secrets but it had not been prepared for the latest row over its pre-publication book review of "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows".
The review, that gives away a few spoilers, has been met with anger by both the book's author JK Rowling and her publishers. Rowling came out swinging after learning that both the New York Times and the Baltimore Sun had obtained pre-publication copies of the book despite a costly embargo.
"I am staggered that some American newspapers have decided to publish purported spoilers in the form of reviews in complete disregard of the wishes of literally millions of readers, particularly children," she said.
"I am incredibly grateful to all those newspapers, booksellers and others who have chosen not to attempt to spoil Harry's last adventure for fans," the 41-year-old added. (src Reuters U.K.)
The outrage over the early reviews in U.S. newspapers was exacerbated by statements from the book's publishers who spent millions of dollars to maintain an embargo until the official release on July 21st.
A Bloomsbury spokeswoman called the New York Times review "very sad", adding that there was only one day to wait until the official release in book stores around the world. Twelve million copies of the book have been printed for the U.S. market alone.
She likened the events in the United States to the Boston Tea Party, a 1773 protest by American colonists against Britain.
"But over here it is blockades as usual, with the embargo being enforced unflinchingly and without exception by all our customers," she said.
As usual the New York Times is shrugging off the incident with the standard self centered response that is steeped in cultural relativism; they will judge for themselves if they did anything wrong and others who don't like it can take a hike.
New York Times book editor Rick Lyman defended the newspaper's decision to run its review before publication.
"Our feeling is that once a book is offered up for sale at any public, retail outlet, and we purchase a copy legally and openly, we are free to review it," a spokeswoman said.
"We came across a copy of 'Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows' at a store in New York City and we bought it.
"We took great care not to give away the ending, nor to give away significant details about who lives and who dies, confining our review -- which, incidentally, had extremely high praise for both this final book and the entire series -- to broader-brush assessments of the tone and the writing."
In the review, writer Michiko Kakutani gives away some plot details, including roughly how many characters die and what "deathly hallows" means, but does not leak the big secrets.
That's a pretty rich statement to make by a newspaper that doesn't hold the same high regard for national security secrets, which by the way, were not obtained, nor published "legally and openly".
But we see how this works. They allegedly obtained a copy of the book legally, although before the publication data. In addition, they didn't give away the big secrets, just some of the smaller ones that tie the plot together.
Are you going to tell me that the Times editors didn't know that the book was unavailable on the open market, didn't know that there was an embargo and didn't rush the review to print as a scoop? Save it.
In the context of national defense secrets this is a small time offense. But in the larger scheme of cultural responsibility toward the simplest of human virtues such as respect, honesty and integrity the New York Times repeatedly demonstrates that they possesses none of those traits.
Hermione summed up my sentiments perfectly in The Prisoner Of Azkaban. "YOU FOUL, LOATHSOME, EVIL LITTLE COCKROACH!". Now if I only had a wand...
This article is cross posted at Webloggin