Precious Cargo

Refreshingly Bitter And Twisted Observations On Life's Passing Parade.

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Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Review Writing For Dummies

Both Salon and Slate have reviews today of the series finale of the tv show 7th Heaven.

Despite being written by two different writers and published in two different periodicals, both reviews make the same three comments about the show, phrased almost identically.

From Slate:

"But despite its blatant cheesiness...

"The series finale will be tonight, but it's never too late to catch up on the Camden clan, led by Eric (played with a knowing smirk by the actor Stephen Collins, who writes erotic thrillers with names like Eye Contact on the side), who is a reverend at a nondenominational Christian church (the writers are careful to rarely mention Jesus)..."

From Salon:

The review's header:

"'Sexiest Woman Alive' Jessica Biel returned, dressed all prim; otherwise, this series finale was just cheesy business as usual.

"'7th Heaven's' finale was indistinguishable from pretty much every other cheesy episode of its 10-season run."

"Though the show avoided discussing Jesus or faith too explicitly, Protestant guilt was readily employed as a plot device."

"Although one might have expected Eric (played by Stephen Collins, always with a wink) ..."

I could have let you, the reader, draw the obvious and inevitable conclusion from the quotes, but when I wrote before about reviewers taking their cues from presskits, some anonymous bonehead didn't get it.

So I'll make it explicit. The dirty secret of journalism is that this happens routinely. It is standard practice. Editors know it. Writers know it. Publicists know it. Now you know it. That's why presskits are supplied to writers for anything that's promoted.

Whenever a plagiarism scandal like the recent one over Kaavya Viswanathan breaks, there's the implicit assumption that plagiarism is exceptional behavior. In fact, it is closer to an accepted norm. But the same editors and writers who opine with moral outrage over a high-profile plagiarism scandal don't tell their readers that they knowingly approve of it on a daily basis, because their hypocrisy and the systemic corruption of journalistic standards would embarass them.

2 Comments:

Anonymous Lynne W. Scanlon said...

Peter, it's not plagiarism, though these reviews seem to smack of it because they so closely parallel each other and the original press release.

When I write a press release for a book--and I wrote a number of them for Barnes & Noble's publishing division--I fully expect reviewers to grab phrases, whole sentences and/or paragraphs. Actually, I want them to "steal" my copy since it emphasizes what I think is important about the book. I make reviewing easy for reviewers.

It is the rare reviewer who has the time or takes the time to read the entire book before giving his or her opinion. Many of the reviews are just filler for columns filled in a rush.

--Lynne or...The Wicked Witch of Publishing

4:31 AM  
Blogger Tim Worstall said...

Well, yes, Lynne, but that’s rather what is being complained about.
I do reviews (although not in quite such august surroundings as Slate) and I’d be horrified if anyone thought I didn’t read the whole thing before I wrote.
Even if I thought the book was total crap I’d still read the thing before saying so.

4:35 AM  

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