[SIGCIS-Members] historians and journalists

Ian Bogost ian.bogost at lmc.gatech.edu
Mon Oct 13 19:39:51 PDT 2014

Regarding the below:

On Oct 13, 2014, at 12:00 PM, Nathan Ensmenger wrote:

> Janet, your email seems to imply that the article that Latif originally wrote for the Atlantic did contain an appropriate acknowledgement of the work of Mara Mills, and that the editors of that journal subsequently removed this attribution without his knowledge or consent.  If so, he has a serious complaint against that journal.  He should perhaps consider making it public.  It would be a welcome contribution to our ongoing conversation about the relationship between academic and journalistic ethics.   If editors in these genres do have such unlimited license to modify (and in this case, seriously distort) our work, then we as historians should be even more wary of contributing to such journals --- or at the very least, we need to be very careful as we read through our author contracts.
> On the other hand, if the version of the article that originally appeared in the Atlantic was approved by Latif, and it was only *after* the public outcry that he realized he did not properly acknowledge his (sole) source --- well, that is exactly the problem we are concerned about.  I do not buy the argument that calling something journalism eliminates one's responsibility to acknowledge one's sources properly.  And I should say, neither do most journalists.  The fact that the article was eventually corrected is nice, but does not change the fact that it was published at all.   The original version was widely disseminated for days before being updated, and the updated version contains no acknowledgement that the article had ever been modified.  How many people read the original version, rather than the correction?  And as far as I am aware, no apology was issued, either publicly or privately.  Has Latif made one? That would be a collegial thing to do.

I’m a Contributing Editor at The Atlantic and I work regularly and closely with the editors involved in publishing Latif's article there. While I was not myself involved with this particular piece, and while I am neither authorized to speak on the A’s behalf nor would I want to speak for either the editors involved nor Latif, I can say that the situation was not so cut-and-dried as you’d like it to be. As most things aren’t.

Incidentally, one of the main avenues scholars have for approaching a general audience is… to write for them directly. I run one series that attempts to facilitate such work (http://objectsobjectsobjects.com), but I’m always happy to help broker between scholars and The Atlantic for works of all kinds, including on subjects of relevance to this list. Many other, similar publications are likewise accessible to those who would seek them out. 

The thing is, most scholars don’t want or don’t try to take folks like me up on this offer, and then they tend to jump to conclusions about how the editorial and publishing process really works based on hearsay. It’s hard to square such conclusion-jumping with the simultaneous claim that academics are somehow the rigorous thinkers in this dyad.

The desire for some kind of allegorical good vs evil rendition of academia vs journalism is really not a productive line of thought. 

Ian Bogost, Ph.D.

Ivan Allen College Distinguished Chair in Media Studies
Professor of Interactive Computing
Professor, Scheller School of Business
Georgia Institute of Technology

Contributing Editor, The Atlantic

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