Monday, May 15, 2006

Author Baits, Switches, Then Cries “Foul”

Suppose you contracted a speaker to talk about the heroes and real life stories which she finds inspiring. Then you learn she was planning to deliver a partisan harangue directed at the No Child Left Behind policy, for which you publish a line of books. You might understandably say thanks, but no thanks. Would it surprise you if you then found yourself accused of censorship in the columns of PW Daily? That’s exactly what happened to McGraw-Hill after they decided Patricia Polacco’s services were no longer needed.

It’s interesting to see how PW played the story. Under a Friday (5/12) headline “Author Shouts Foul Over Cancelled Appearance,” PW tells their concerned readers: “Patricia Polacco is scared.” The dark specter of fascism looms larger when we read:

Polacco, who told PW that McGraw-Hill lawyers had spoken "aggressively" with a lawyer friend of hers, said the publisher threatened to sue if they lost sales as a result of the potential negative publicity she had had drummed up. This, Polacco, said made her very uneasy. "The problem is, if this went to a lawsuit, they're Goliath and I'm David. Just to defend it, they could wipe me out." Polacco also insisted that, despite appearances, McGraw-Hill was not the bad guy. "It's No Child Left Behind that I'm gunning for," she said.

Scary times we live in. Bush using McGraw-Hill as his puppet, and what-not. However today, in a brief clarification under pieces about the wholesaler AMS, repackaging Agatha Christie books, and titles going on-sale next week, PW adds a note on the Polacco story (keep scrolling, it’s buried deep below the fold):

Clarifying Friday's Daily story about the sparring between children's author Patricia Polacco and SRA/McGraw-Hill (click here to read)—in which the author claimed she was censored by the publisher after she tried to craft a speech, to be given at an event sponsored by McGraw-Hill, railing against the No Child Left Behind policy. The contract Polacco signed, which she told PW she did not read, clearly stated the two topics which she was to address: the "heroes" who've impacted her life and the real life stories that inspired certain titles she wrote.

I guess it’s a mere detail to PW that Polacco seemed to be engaging in a bait and switch. Either she fraudulently accepted the engagement with the intent of delivering an entirely different speech, or at the very least, she runs a very careless organization that does not pay attention to pesky details, like contracts. It’s quite understandable that McGraw-Hill wasn’t inclined to pick up the tab for that.

Update: the original PW Daily story on-line now carries the note of clarification beneath it, effectively undercutting the preceding article. PW's odd editorial choices have clearly played up Polacco's sense of victimhood, however it is hard to share those sentiments after learning the terms of the agreement.