Mommy’s new lazy, sensationalistic reporting

My Beautiful MommyI’m sure some of you have come to the conclusion that I like beating up on WaPo. Really, nothing is farther from the truth and overall I have a positive opinion of the paper, particularly compared to the yellow rag that the Miami Herald had become by the time I moved here six years ago.

Unfortunately today I find myself annoyed with one of the sections that normally I find above average – Health. I was a little perturbed that the story on the debate about plastics made no mention of the tremendous impact plastic has had on the safety of health care, but the real offense in the section was about a plastic surgery.

Well, it would have been a story about that if WaPo writer Sandra G. Boodman hasn’t just vomited Newsweek’s original bit of scandal manufacturing back up without a hint of journalistic rigor or effort. The reality of this story – not presented anywhere in the original Newsweek piece or Boodman’s uncredited paraphrasing – is that this is a book published by a vanity press and authored by a Florida plastic surgeon for his own clients. This plastic surgeon actually does some good outreach to the public on plastic surgery, though somehow that link didn’t make it into the story: I guess talking about articles covering sun damage and porta-cath scars doesn’t sell papers.

Personally I think we have some… interesting attitudes about beauty and aging in the US, and it’s a subject that could do with some quality discussion. This isn’t it. If you’re interested in more detail about why this is a non-story, Teresa Neilsen Hayden spells out the situation in great detail here… in a post from about a week ago, which Boodman could probably have found if she’d taken longer than 4 minutes to re-use Newsweek’s story. The meat of the matter:

Big Tent Books … is a vanity press and marketing and fulfillment operation. It pretends it’s separate from another company called Dragonpencil—in theory, Big Tent is a marketing and distribution firm, and Dragonpencil is a publisher—but they’re really a single organization run by Jerry and Samantha Setzer. The two companies have the same address and phone number. Big Tent’s award-winning books get all their awards from Dragonpencil. Dragonpencil’s deluxe publishing package includes marketing and distribution by Big Tent. And if you poke around their sites long enough, you can find the page where they admit it.

Big Tent/Dragonpencil has the usual problem of vanity presses: zero to lousy sales and distribution. They’re a lot better at making books than they are at promoting them. Only a few of their titles are even listed at Amazon, and those are listed badly—half the normal publisher-furnished information is missing. Sales are minimal.

My Beautiful Mommy is not one of the books Big Tent lists on Amazon.

In other words, this story about shilling to children isn’t at all a case where anyone was shilling to chilren. Dr Michael Salzhauer’s book – which includes a surgeon named Dr Michael, in case you were wondering whether he really meant it for his patients – is for people who already have made the decision to have plastic surgery.

Or maybe Newsweek and Boodman think that books written about death for a child’s perspective are promoting kids being accepting of dying?

3 Comments so far

  1. amandaa on April 22nd, 2008 @ 7:35 pm

    interesting about the article–i noticed it and thought it was odd.

    but my real concern was the plastics article, which–for the record–definitely succeeded in scaring me. it spurred me to seek (unsuccessfully) a metal water bottle at target, as that’s supposedly the only safe receptacle for water at this point.

  2. Don (dc_don) on April 22nd, 2008 @ 8:25 pm

    It’s the omissions in the plastics article that were most glaring, I think. The sidebar states "Reduce your use of polycarbonate and polyvinyl chloride (PVC) plastics, both of which contain BPA."

    However given the ubiquity of PVC pipe in new construction use I wonder at exactly how most people are going to accomplish that. I’d bet that almost everyone reading this has a water supply that goes through at least a short PVC run.

  3. amandaa on April 23rd, 2008 @ 2:52 pm

    wow, great point. i hadn’t even thought that far.

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