Sunday, January 30, 2011

Editor sued for running a negative review

I know that Sundays are generally reserved for Blog Spots and hopefully I will get to those as soon as possible, but for the time being with a rather nasty string of headaches. As a result, I feel rather drained to form any in-depth sentences. So I leave you with a rather bizarre courtroom case that is going down in Paris as we speak:

After running a review of the book by Thomas Weigend, director of the Cologne Institute of Foreign and International Criminal Law, and dean of the faculty of law at the University of Cologne, “Dr Calvo-Goller wrote to Professor Weiler alleging that it was defamatory and asking for it to be taken down,” says the THE report, because it could “cause harm to my professional reputation and academic promotion.” She even provided Weiler with a positive review to run in its place. Weiler told her “The heavy burden needed in my eyes to suppress a book review has not been met,” but offered her space to reply. She declined and pressed charges of “criminal libel” instead.

To be fair, this case sounds less bizarre in context. The negative review, in question, relates to very niche non-fiction, which requires a very narrow and specialized knowledge to write. It's not complete overreaction [in theory] considering how a review affects the competence, reputation and credibility of a specialist. Had the review been truly aimed at the author and not the book [in this case it's not] then I can justify this happening. But given the circumstances explained in the paragraph above I'm inclined to think that this case leans more to being a farce.

“What did Calvo-Goller do wrong in this situation? Rather than covering up the fact she may or may not have written a credible ICC ‘Trial Proceedings’ book, she illuminated the fact that she may or may not have written a credible ICC ‘Trial Proceedings’ book.”

This is the actual morale of the story. Given the circumstances, Calvo-Goller should have kept quiet about her book not being perfect. It's human nature to be err and a faulty book can and will receive negative reviews. You screw up and try your best with the next.

Yes, the review was posted in a respectable and popular venue. However, what we must not forget is that negative reviews get posted all the time. People read them and that's that. Some of the times the review sticks with the reader, more often than not people forget they've read it.

What Calvo-Goller did was to not only bring the negative review to the attention of thousands more, but also making it stick. The verdict is due March and the defendant runs a column about the experience. This case is receiving attention and then after all this is over [whether she wins or loses] the trial will become a connotation to her name. I'm sure that it will taint her future readers' opinion of her work.

LESSON: When you try to vindicate your ego, beware how far you go and whether you have the justifications to do so. Considering that most of us focus on fiction, I doubt a negative review will get this to court [UNLESS you stole someone's novel; shame on you]. But when you decide to hog the spotlight, your ass is on the line. Beware.

The whole article can be found [HERE]


Charles Gramlich said...

I think it's almost always dangerous to respond to negative reviews with anything more than politeness. The writer has many ways to look bad in such an exchange, and almost no way to look good.

Harry Markov said...

Yes, in such instances you can never ever look good, unless there is a case of libel. Otherwise, keep your mouth shut and take it gracefully. Only that can make you look good.