Tonight I came across this item on Huffington Post-books:
I confess to having been taken aback by the headline, which suggested that two-time Booker Prize winner Hilary Mantel had been less than gracious in references to Kate Middleton. The first few paragraphs of the article seemed to confirm: seemingly odious quotes and negative reactions by a number of famous persons. Only at the very end of the article did Huff Po suggest that the initial interpretations may have been taken out of context. To their credit, however, Huff Po included a link to the full text of Hilary’s speech. Given my current interest in authors and publishing, I was curious as to why such a respected author would go out on a limb like that, and I did what no doubt many would not have bothered to do: I clicked the link.
What I found there shocked me, even though by now, I should know better than to be taken aback by such things. Turns out that in context, Hilary’s comments do nothing of the sort. Sadly, someone who only reads the headline will undoubtedly come away with a negative opinion of the author. That unfavorable opinion will only be bolstered by scanning the first few paragraphs. Many readers won’t get any farther than that. Even reading the entire article, although it might cast some doubt on the initial impression Huff Po worked so hard to produce in those opening lines, it won’t dispel it entirely. However, reading the entire transcript produces a vastly different impression, and instead of being offended, it made me wish I’d been in the audience!
Treat yourself: click the link.
As a regular Huff Po reader, I’m left to question whether all their other articles are similarly reflective of the actual truth.
Is such character assassination by subtext truly worth the paltry clicks this salacious headline will generate? How many books will Hilary fail to sell as a result of readers’ reactions to this article? Even if this misleading negative publicity generates more sales than it loses, as consumers of media, do we really prefer to be titillated rather than informed? Really, Huff Po, is this all the better you can do?
Update: Huff Po now has this subtitle linking from their books page to the article:
Booker Prize-Winner’s Speech Over-Simplified By Media.. Prime Minister Weighs In, Looks Stupid
However, the title of the article once you get there is still:
Kate Middleton Attacked? Author Hilary Mantel Calls Princess ‘Plastic,’ ‘Designed To Breed’
Hmm. One wonders where the Prime Minister might have gotten an impression so erroneous that his comments make him look stupid…
Still, nice to see the media are at least making making some progress.