|Weekly News Digest
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'… Publishing’s Cancel Culture Debate Boils Over' by Alison Flood
Alison Flood writes the following for The Guardian:
In the liberal industry of publishing, the tension that exists between profit and morality is nothing new. … But the debate over what should be published has reached a fever pitch. Publishing staff who feel uncomfortable about working on certain titles are speaking out more often and more loudly, through open letters and on social media. In April, more than 200 employees at S&S in the US asked their employer to pull out of a seven-figure book deal with former vice president Mike Pence. Authors, too, have withdrawn titles when their publishers sign writers they disagree with; Roxane Gay pulled out of a book deal with S&S in 2017 over its decision to publish “alt-right” provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos, as did Ronan Farrow when his publisher Hachette announced it would publish a memoir by his estranged father, Woody Allen. Pankaj Mishra recently revealed he had written to his publisher, Penguin Random House India, to ask it to reconsider reissuing a book by prime minister Narendra Modi during the country’s Covid-19 crisis.
Sometimes the pressure works. … Sometimes it doesn’t. … Publishers today are teetering on a tightrope. Which voices should they amplify with a publishing deal—those their staff agree with, or those with an audience who agree with them? How far does an author have to go before their views are deemed unpublishable? What about when the personal views of an author, say JK Rowling, are condemned and staff object to working on her next children’s book? Where to draw the line? …
[S]peaking to publishing staff for this article—particularly those at the big conglomerates, and more junior staff worried for their jobs—most are wary of speaking on the record. … ‘Everyone is very guarded around this subject and inclined to speak with incredible care,’ one head of PR says. ‘These days, it’s all too easy to earn yourself the unshakable label of “bigot”. Also, too many areas of discussion feel like they’re off limits—which should hardly be the case in an industry that disseminates ideas.’
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