Home > Writing > Ghostwriting and the Loss of Innocence

Ghostwriting and the Loss of Innocence

I remember during my first week as a PR professional I learned one of our clients CEO’s never wrote his own quotes. Instead an account manager crafted a quote to fit the press release or statement and had him refine it. Sometimes the quotes would get refined ten or twelve times. I was confused. “It’s just the way the industry works,” the manager told me. I still didn’t get it.

And then something happened: I lost my innocence. In hindsight I should have lost it years before then, but for some reason I never did. Lately there has been some debate about ghostwriting and what happens when it enters professional journals. Just today the New York Times ran a front-page story on pharmaceutical companies paying ghostwriters to push therapy. The writing appeared in scientific papers and was published between 1998 and 2005. The incidence is disturbing, but I feel should not produce an outrage. Why? Because it happens all the time and as society we just look the other way.

Two years ago while conducting a press briefing for an upcoming book, the author told me she was ghostwriting the piece for an industry expert. I asked her how the process worked and she said she researched and wrote the book while he scanned it and signed it off. In the end he got all the credit while she went on to ghostwrite the next piece. She of course was fine with this I should point out.

I would be a fool to say ghostwriting is bad. In fact, I know several writers who make their living writing for other people. I’ve even done it once or twice myself when it comes to corporate copy or website filler. But I still have a hard time with it. Our names are supposed to signify what we did, not someone else, so I have to question now when I read something or hear something: is this person really saying this or did it come from some hidden shadow typing away?

– New York Times Medical Papers by Ghostwriters Pushed Therapy

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