Libel per se – UPDATED TWICE

02 Jul
July 2, 2014

UPDATE:  12 p.m., July 4

I am informed that the Huff Post piece has now removed the reference to my having been fired.  Instead, apparently, my revenge was had upon editors who spiked one of my articles because my writing wasn’t “Dickensian” enough.  They never said anything of the sort to me or anyone else, and that is not actually the reason that particular article was spiked.  I carefully related the actual sequence of events to Dr. Williams in my April memo as a discussion of  that particular article and its fate features throughout her manuscript, but no matter.  With regard to the Huff Post essay at least, I am libeled no more and I thank the author for her apology at the bottom of the essay.

A brief word on the non-performance of the Huffington Post in this matter, on their publishing ethic, and on the manner in which this institution conducts its business:

The abdication of editorial responsibility in the case of aggregated sites such as Wikipedia or barely-edited copy dumps such as the Huffington Post is one of the sad retrenchments in news distribution and commentary.  The ethos of such entities — hey, we don’t write the stuff; we’re just the blackboard it’s scrawled upon —  sounds at first to be an ennobled argument for an open and unfettered marketplace of ideas, where some unseen hand of libertarian idealism ensures that better notions triumph over bad ones, and the lies are all, in the end, run down and brutalized by more powerful truths before much harm is done.  Demagogues from Huey Long to Joseph Goebbels have an answer to that naivete; shit, John Kerry will sell you a used Swift Boat if you’re credulous enough to believe such tripe.   These policies are not ennobled.  They are craven.  They allow web entities to profit off the slanders, provocations and irresponsible claims in the real-time battles that make their sites central and profitable to every argument. Lies and cheap provocations become as essential to the dynamic as the truth, and accuracy and falsehood are accorded equal honor.  It’s yellow stuff indeed.  

Some of the best and most courageous journalism that I’ve witnessed involved the decision by good and careful editors NOT to publishing something incomplete, or inaccurate, or ethically impaired.  Such things seldom happen with our present internet.  Instead, the editors of the Huffington Post are not only untroubled at the thought of unknowingly participating in a libel, they prove comfortable with maintaining that libel even when its falsehood is known.  They throw up their hands, cry that we shouldn’t shoot the piano player, who’s merely playing the music of others.  As if carrying a lie about another citizen to a mass of people isn’t still the tort of libel and a thoroughly scumsucking thing with which to be engaged.

UPDATE:  2 p.m., July 3

Today, I spoke with the director of Duke University Press.  He informs me that Dr. Williams’ book, which had been sent to the printer without any changes since I viewed the manuscript three months ago, is now on hold while the publisher consults with its author and with legal counsel.  Given that this gentleman was coming to this issue suddenly and without prior knowledge, and, too, that some time is required to reach people, gather information and address complicated matters, I’m inclined to leave it here and keep the details of my conversation private.  At present, I am content to believe that Duke University Press is trying to address the issue.   More to come.  Or not.  Hard to know. 

ORIGINAL  TEXT:  July 2

The permanent churn of the internet is such that if you allow a dishonesty to stand for more than a moment, it will be endlessly repeated as fact for as long as there are humans left to link to it.   We all sense this.  And even so, for some falsehoods, we have to laugh and let it ride; the stakes just aren’t that high.

But every now and then comes a moment when — as someone who counted himself as a professional reporter for some certain years — I find myself stunned, like a cow with a sledgehammer, to see just how indifferent another practitioner is to any basic responsibility and ethics.

In this instance, the practitioner is an academic author, Linda Williams, who has published a book of themes and arguments relating to a television show I once wrote and produced, “The Wire.”  Her book, published by Duke University Press, is currently being hawked as new books always are, and Ms. Williams has written a piece for the Huffington Post, which appears on that site today as part of that publicity campaign.  For obvious reasons, I will not link to it because of the libel contained therein.

Understand, it is not merely an error.  Everyone makes mistakes.

The reason that I can attest that this is no mere error is that a few months ago, Duke University Press sent me a galley of the book and asked that I look at it.  As I explained to them, I am without public opinion as to Dr. Williams’ thoughts and theories regarding “The Wire.”  She is welcome to all of them.  I do, however, find myself capable of opinion on any narrative that suggests I was at any point unethical as a newspaperman.  Those years matter to me to a much greater degree than how anyone might view my later performance in the entertainment industry.

And indeed, embedded in the original manuscript was a theme, conjured from god knows where by the author, that I had been fired from the newspaper after a falling out with editors that involved an ethical breach on my part.

I don’t know how else to say this:  There was no ethical breach.  No lapse in any ethical standard of journalism was ever suggested or referenced in any of my work, even by those editors with whom I had deep and fundamental disagreements over the direction and priorities of the newspaper.  No ethical question was ever raised by those editors with me, nor with any of my immediate supervisors.  Nothing of the sort was ever discussed or brought to my attention in any way, ever.  It.  Just.  Did.  Not.  Happen.

I was not fired at all.  In fact, because of more philosophical disagreements, I elected to leave the Sun voluntarily in November 1995, taking a buyout with about 120 other newsroom employees who were offered a year’s salary and benefits to leave the newspaper.  Further, when it became clear to the editors in question that I was determined to depart the paper, one of them, Mr. Marimow by name, came to me in the last hours of the buyout window and put a slip of paper in my hand.  It promised a $5,000 raise immediately if I would withdraw my buyout papers, and a second raise in the subsequent fiscal year.  I thanked him, but noted that my differences with him and with Mr. Carroll were not really about money, and I left the paper.

And yet, here I am in the Huffington Post today under the byline of Dr. Williams, a professor at the University of California at Berkeley:  “Thus did David Simon have his sweet revenge on the bosses who once fired him from the Baltimore Sun…”

Again, I conveyed all of the above corrective facts to Dr. Williams and her publisher both, in writing, by early April.  I wrote that they should look at the material and endeavor to do the proper and responsible thing.  I did not hear back from them.  I do not know if substantive changes have been made to the book manuscript.  I only know that I am nonetheless, in today’s published essay, someone who needed to be fired from his newspaper.

Being fired from any job certainly implies cause.  It is defamatory on its face.  And when a writer is informed in advance of the facts and chooses to publish such a claim regardless, it meets the definition for libel, and actionable libel even of a public person.

Today, I’ve written to my original contacts at Duke University Press, asking, in effect, what the fuck.  I also attempted to correct the record using the disembodied and bureaucratic uselessness that is the Huffington Post’s corrections and legal inquiry forms.  Nada.  No replies.   No follow through at all.  As of a few moments ago, the lie stands, comfortably, amid the warm breezes of a web where truth is always late to the picnic.

There is a presumption that the academy — with its research standards and its intellectual rigor — is ever superior to the slapdash, first-draft-of-history half-assedness that is daily journalism.  We made mistakes in print all the time.  Yes, we did.  But if someone sent me corrective material months in advance of publication and I still managed to print a libel without regard to that material, I would have been, well, fired.  And I would not have complained.

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102 replies
  1. Bernard says:

    I just received Williams’ book. It appears devoid of the “fired” libel; in fact it seems to gush with admiration. What do you think, David?

    Reply
    • David Simon says:

      I haven’t reviewed the published book. I was given a copy of the manuscript that contained an elaborate claim of ethical malfeasance on my part that had no basis in fact. This claim was cited on a multitude of pages and to justify a variety of arguments; the maintenance of the claim required a mangling of actual chronologies and facts. I cited the totality, in detail, to Dr. Williams’ publisher. They forwarded me pages indicating that the manuscript had voided itself of any part of the claim. It is my assumption that the published work reflects this.

      I don’t care about whether anyone thinks well of The Wire, or of my work. That is not for me to debate. I care when someone makes extraordinary claims about my professionalism and ethics as a reporter in the years when I did that job, certainly. Her claims were extraordinary and repeatedly cited without corroboration to unscore a theory in her work. I care not about the theory but about the false claims.

      I can’t make it any clearer.

      Reply
  2. steven zhou says:

    Hey, speaking of crappy profiles, I have a semi-relevant question:

    The Atlantic’s 2008 profile of you that you dislike: was it by Mark Bowden (“TV’s Angriest Man,” Jan 1) or by Matt Yglesias (“David Simon and the Audacity of Despair,” Jan 2)?

    I thought you always meant the Bowden piece until I heard/saw you in an interview say that you got this blog’s name from the title of that mis-profile, which would make the author Yglesias, not Bowden.

    Just curious.

    Reply
    • David Simon says:

      I thought it was from the Bowden thing, but I may have conflated the two. I didn’t agree with the piece by Mr. Yglesias, and I actually offered a counter in a comment, as I recall. But I didn’t find anything disagreeable or dishonest in that piece. Mr. Bowden’s effort was wholly dishonest. His manipulation of my Stoop Session rant — which was intended to be hyperbolic, comic, and for charitable purposes — was entirely telling. It actually ends with me being complimentary to those adversarial editors and entirely mocking of myself; it turns. Mr. Bowden knew this but carefully omitted all of that as it did not serve his purpose.

      I found it astonishing behavior for a reporter. It makes me wonder if such work as “Blackhawk Down” represents the reality of the event, or merely the narrative that Mr. Bowden thought best for his purposes.

      Reply
      • James Elson says:

        I think I’ve just lost respect for someone I thought knew how to tell a good story. I am of course referring to Mark Bowden. Next time I read one of his works I may have to take it wish a larger grain of salt then before.

        Boy am I dumb.

        Reply
        • David Simon says:

          He is, if nothing else, very loyal.

          The Atlantic piece was a prophylactic in defense of his close friends, Mr. Marimow and Mr. Carroll, in advance of season five of The Wire. So the dishonesty was motivated by camaraderie and personal fealty, which are not unattractive characteristics. But, yeah, he contorted himself in astonishing and disappointing ways. I was an admirer of his journalism, until I saw a sausage or two get made.

          Reply
  3. max roche says:

    I read Homicide; I read The Corner; I reeeeed [sic] your blog.

    What I appreciate most is your appreciation of the grey areas: for any issue, any discourse, any debate.

    For me, and I am sure many others, it matters.

    (from a drunk Englishman making his way through the posts in a lonely bar in Singapore)

    Reply
  4. steven zhou says:

    All this reminds me of a Chris Hedges essay for Truthdig some years back where he trashes the Huff Post for basically the same reasons. The H-Post is the foremost example, in my opinion, of the worst aspects of a decaying news culture. It produces little original news; it uses a lot of wire; it lacks fastidious fact-checking and editing; and it’s essentially a parasite that feeds off of the world of real news. On top of that, they barely pay their writers while A. Huffington goes off to make millions by selling the whole thing to a true corporation.

    I remember bringing up the Hedges piece in journalism school. The whole class wondered why I would ever speak badly about the website that’s supposedly going to help save “the industry” while doing courageous battle with right wing demagoguery.

    I think that “progressives” were so tired of the general rightward shift of political discourse in the U.S. that they externalized much of that frustration onto the mass media. No doubt there are plenty of institutional and structural problems about an industry that has, time and time again, shown disdain for its own product.

    But the population seems to think that the whole news-making apparatus can be tossed away and replaced with the internet and some pioneering spirit. Everyone with a cellphone and a computer can (and should) now make their own news. We’re told that we can (and should) bypass the old NYT and W-Post reporters whose editors are the buddies of wealthy businessmen and politicians. It really is a kind of Protestant spirit, where the middle man is taken out, replaced by the wits and skills of the layman. Just hire a professional photographer, webmaster, and graphic designer, and you can exude as much “credibility” as any other guy. Old print news structures are decaying, so we ought to pull ourselves up by our bootstraps and become true entrepreneurs with our own I-Phones and websites.

    I feel like the Huffington Post is the offspring (one kind, anyway) of that kind of thinking. There’s no need for serious structure, which would include real editing and fact-checking. There’s also no need to cover those boring zoning board meetings or those boring bureaucrats at the liquor board. Stick to the sexier stuff like commentary and gossip. Let the wire services cover the news. I just went on the Huff Post website and the front page is about 80% froth. Someone once told me that they should be commended for progressively affecting the overall political climate.

    Did they really? Perhaps, but I certainly don’t feel it.

    While giving off the faint scent of being a new, hip, non-corporate news aggregator, the reality is that they’re still owned by AOL, a corporate entity. I’m not suggesting that their editorial policies will be dictated wholly by share-holders or by businessmen, but there’s something inherently dishonest about how the outlet is marketed and perceived. In reality, it combines being a subsidiary of a for-profit company with the new-age “journalism’s” inability to produce original news. It’s the worst of both worlds.

    Reply
    • David Simon says:

      Just so. Agree with every word.

      Good journalism requires intellectual rigor. And money. You have to pay for good people to do it.

      Reply
      • Kevin Stevens says:

        Having written both prose and software for money, it’s been my experience that management believes adding “with a computer” to a business makes everything cheaper and “changes everything”.

        Few things could be further from the truth. Someone still has to go to the zoning board meeting, a doctor still needs to interview the patient, etc. We haven’t yet–and probably never will–imbue software with the flexibility of the human mind. And instilling it with ethics is almost certainly beyond the grasp of ones and zeroes.

        Reply
        • TCinLA says:

          As my scientist father used to say of computers 60 years ago: “Them that think computers think, don’t.”

          Reply
  5. kt says:

    Well, first of all, I’m sorry this happened. As Marlo said, “my name is MY NAME”, and you are correct to defend yours.

    Having worked for several academic presses, I can easily imagine how this may have happened. I should preface this by saying that I have never worked at Duke and I cannot say that the following is true of all university presses. This is based solely on my experience and observation and is my pure speculation about what may have gone down.

    We should all begin with the understanding that while Duke is a big university, DUP is not a big publisher. Academic presses have relatively tiny budgets and resources, and accordingly relatively tiny expectations for sales. We are not talking about MacMillan here. Most books published by university presses have a press run of only a few thousand (if that), and are expected to sell solely to college students and other academics, if they are lucky enough to be adapted to course syllabi. A book that sells, say, 10,000 copies would be quite splashy by university press standards, and would be a feather in the cap of its acquisitions editor.

    In that environment, a book on THE WIRE — a show with millions of fans — would be considered a very hot project. It can expect more media coverage than an academic book usually gets (ex: this Huff Post article). The press has probably allotted a much higher press run than the average, projected higher sales, and put a higher amount of marketing money into it. In short, this is likely a book that everyone inside that press has been saying “must” make its publication date.

    Now the problem with that, as any publisher and writer knows, every book is delayed during development. The author is slow to finish writing, the reviewers are slow to read, copyediting proves more onerous than initially imagined, etc. So, the extra wiggle room which one might have allotted for an extra round of peer review, legal review or last-minute corrections tends to evaporate. This is all the more problematic when you are dealing with a project that “must” make its date.

    Let’s discuss that “peer review” I just mentioned. For most academic press titles, the standard is at least two rounds of content peer review before the manuscript is revised, re-reviewed, and approved for publication. In academia, “peers” are truly “peers” — other professors working in the same field, usually people that are well-familiar with each other. (University presses tend to avoid inviting professors who are enmeshed in intellectual or personal feuds with each other, as their reviews are obviously biased.) These people are generally supportive of each other’s work and, though they are usually ethical in their reviews, do not go out of their way to spike each other’s prospects for publication.

    However, academics (unless they are law professors) are not usually familiar with the law. In my experience many of them are unfamiliar with even basic principles of intellectual property law, let alone issues of tort and libel. Therefore they are not reading with legal issues in mind.

    Likewise, the publisher does not assume that there will be legal issues with most of their publications, the vast majority of which are not works of journalism but of academic opinion as supported by current research and literature. Most university presses do not have their own legal staff, nor do they employ fact-checkers. Someone is on staff who will check for permissions issues regarding use of 3rd-party material, and it MAY be possible that they will contact the university lawyer for a review of publications that involve patient identity in medical cases or some such, but that is very rare. (It is considered ill form in most universities for anyone other than the head of a department to contact the lawyers directly, presumably because the lawyer’s hours are billed to the department. I can’t think of any other reason why.)

    In other words, the publisher assumes that the academic author and her academic reviewers are content experts in their area and know what they are talking about; the author assumes the publisher will correct them if anything they say is wrong. Both of these parties are in error in thinking this.

    This is a long-winded way of saying that it is highly likely that no one who understands the law has ever read the book manuscript in question. The person who sent you the galley proofs is likely a low-level, underpaid editorial or marketing assistant who was simply hoping you’d give it a positive blurb. When he/she received your response, he/she likely had no clue how serious your objections were or how he/she should go about addressing them (again, not being able to contact the lawyer).

    The other thing is that university presses (in keeping with their sparse staff and the pace of academia in general) move VERY, VERY slowly. Your objections could easily have been being bandied about from desk to desk for three months without anyone either understanding them or being willing to deal with them — especially if they realized that making substantial content corrections (or, even worse, having a lawyer carefully comb through line-by-line for libelous statements) would mean pushing the book’s publication date far back and incurring unforeseen production costs (including the lawyer’s fees) which would be no big deal to a major trade publisher, but which could send a small university press into the red for the next year or more. I suspect a highly contagious case of “Somebody Else’s Problem” has been spreading among the staff.

    (Never say the words “we have to reprint” at a university press. Your head will roll regardless of the circumstances.)

    Of course, now they have to deal with the reality of pushing back the publication date in order to make corrections anyway. It is something that could have been avoided. Hopefully Duke and other university presses will take this opportunity to understand that if they wish to publish books that they hope will garner popular sales from non-academic audiences, that feature allegations about people who are alive and in a position to sue, that they must enhance their own oversight of these manuscripts and not depend solely upon the authors or reviewers to verify their own facts. Especially if you are going to write a book about someone who is a former professional journalist from an era when journalistic ethics meant something…

    Again, apologies for this unpleasant event but perhaps it is some comfort to know that right now every employee of DUP is banging their head upon a desk. I have every expectation that they will adjust the book to accommodate you. A public denunciation of the book by you (let alone a lawsuit) is the only thing that is worse than a line-by-line legal review or even a reprint.

    Again, the above is entirely my speculation and I am open to others with similar employment histories disagreeing with me. Vive la Academe!

    Reply
    • kt says:

      Also, am I the only person appalled that Huffington Post doesn’t even use spellcheck? What are “metal scavingers”? (My browser won’t even let me type that without trying to correct it.)

      Reply
  6. David says:

    And this is just one of many reasons why, after five years, three conferences and tens of thousands of words later, the draft of my PhD thesis on The Wire currently resides within my Recycle Bin, just waiting to be purged from the world. Apologies that it nearly saw the light of day – it was a close one, for sure.

    Or to put it slightly more succinctly – fuck the academy.

    Reply
  7. CC says:

    Maybe it’s an homage (to Scott Templeton)?

    Reply
  8. Other David says:

    I think you are confused on the Wikipedia editing standards. I have to wonder if you have looked into the internals of Wikipedia and the processes employed. First and foremost, Wikipedia is an encyclopedia, not a newspaper. The size of a resource like Wikipedia has been calculated to be 1,951 equivalent encyclopedia volumes (that is just the English version). The editorial policy for such a work has to be different than that of a newspaper or a traditional book. As such, you typically don’t see the editorial policies come into play unless someone disputes something that is written (and they give special protections to living people to try not to libel them). At that point there are several processes employed for people to question the information, label potentially misleading information, and informally or formally resolve disputes.

    You might say, this is stupid. How could such a cluster of random people produce something that isn’t full of errors. This would be a good point, except it has been studied. Wikipedia has fared well against its traditional competitors (traditionally edited encyclopedias and textbooks). The process works despite the knee-jerk reaction of many against it. You can read more here:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reliability_of_Wikipedia#Comparative_studies

    And here is a discussion of the editorial policy, which exists and hasn’t been abdicated like you argue:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Editorial_oversight_and_control

    Reply
    • David Simon says:

      That’s all very interesting. Do you know that on Wikipedia I was married to Howard Stern’s ex-wife for two years? Or that other misrepresentations and exaggerations are still evident on my entry?

      It’s not an encyclopedia. An encyclopedia is edited carefully, by professionals. Wikipedia is the collective and assorted product of a string of amateur archivists and interested parties that, while appoximating an accurate resource, should nonetheless be taken with a larger grain of salt than something more carefully vetted. In traditional publishing, a resource work does not go to press until it has been fact-checked, or at least that was the accepted standard. Now, a resource such as Wikipedia goes to press routinely with embedded falsehoods that are subjected, to, at best, an ongoing and retroactive vetting process. But the falsehoods are published first along with the accurate material.

      I accept that Wikipedia is at least making an attempt to police itself. Huffington Post, no. But you can’t call the publishing standards of our time anything other than a retrenchment over the care that published material once received in the pre-digital age.

      Reply
      • Some Guy In University says:

        I am a recovering journalist and went back to University for a second go round later in life. The first thing I noticed were all these students around me using wiki to get information about what the prof was explaining. I was very aware that wiki is editable by anyone and thought about how strange it was that our youth was heading straight to wiki for their knowledge.

        As an inquisitive person I decided to ask some people why. The answer I always got was the whole line about studies showing wiki is better than encyclopedias.

        I guess some might say what I did next was wrong, but given I went into the sciences and had people who aspire to save your life in an operating room one day you might be happy I taught them this lesson. When the next test was coming up I decided to do some wiki editing of my own. Half the class failed the very simple test with the answers I changed in the wiki. The prof came to the next class and asked about how so many people had the wrong answer the same because he thought people were cheating. When someone pointed out the wiki he berated the class for using wiki. I later told the prof I did it and we had a chuckle over it and are still friends to this day.

        When people mention how accurate wiki is because studies have been done it makes me want to vomit because it is editable by any schmuck out there, notably me.

        Reply
  9. Bill says:

    You wrote in the comments: “I was born in the District of Columbia in September 1960 and little more than two months later the president was slain in another municipality that begins with the fourth letter of the alphabet.”

    While not libelous, I have to think that’s inaccurate. In November 1960, Eisenhower’s party, the GOP, lost the election, but I don’t think Eisenhower was “slain” or even cared that much.

    The fellow elected in November 1960 was himself slain in November 1963, though. From which I conclude you could very well have participated in his assassination.

    Reply
    • David Simon says:

      Of course, thanks. Was being flippant and mangled it.

      Have corrected with a non-coincidence of commensurate value.

      Reply
      • Bill says:

        So you’re not yet admitting to participating in the assassination of an American President? Probably good move for July 4.

        Reply
        • David Simon says:

          I had just turned three that dark day in Dallas.

          But I was a cunning lad. And not to be trifled with.

          Reply
  10. KathyB says:

    So happy to read the update this morning. Crossing everything that reason prevails. Nothing like combining superstition and rational thought and behavior. Juxtaposition sometimes happens on purpose, often by accident.

    Reply
  11. Paul LeBlanc says:

    The Huffington Post piece has been modified, and a correction added. The paragraph in question now reads:

    “Thus did David Simon have his sweet revenge on the bosses who once killed his story on metal scavingers at the Baltimore Sun because his writing was not “Dickensian” enough.”

    And at the end:
    Correction: This post stated incorrectly that David Simon was fired from the Baltimore Sun. The author apologizes to Mr. Simon for the error.

    Reply
    • David Simon says:

      That was also not the reason that particular story was spiked. Because it features in Dr. Williams’ manuscript, I took the trouble of recounting the actual events for her in the April memo to Duke University Press. But regardless, I am no longer libeled in the Huff Post essay, at least. Which is nice, as is her apology.

      Reply
  12. Don Graham says:

    David,
    I am (alas) old enough to remember the circumstances of your leaving the Sun. You are 100% right (and wise) to answer this. You and I remember the former journalist whose wikipedia biography said for some years that he was complicit in the Kennedy assassination.

    Libel suits usually bring nothing but sorrow, but if you want the name of a very good libel lawyer, call!

    Don

    Reply
    • David Simon says:

      I confess to being peripheral to certain aspects of the Kennedy assassination. But I left my newspaper under my own head of steam, without having anyone raise any objection whatsoever as to the ethics of my performance. This professor’s full manuscript suggests otherwise in great speculative detail. Or at least the version I was handed in April said as much.

      But if she places me on the grassy knoll as the Warren Commission was unable to do, more power to her. I was born in the District of Columbia in September 1960 and little more than two months later the soon-to-be-slain American president was elected to govern from the very same city. Coincidence? A layman might say so. An academic knows otherwise.

      Reply
  13. Ed says:

    Huffington Post is a fucking rag and I hate how frequently some of my fellow left-wingers use it. You’d think all the tits and clickbait in the sidebar would give away the game, but apparently people assign HuffPo enough credibility for it to survive as a publication.

    Reply
  14. Thom Loverro says:

    You sure this isn’t just one last Duke-Maryland ACC grudge thing? You won’t have these problems in the Big Ten

    Reply
    • David Simon says:

      You always cut to the heart of the matter, Thom. But of course Fesperman beat you to the generalized condemnation of all things Duke.

      Reply
      • Thom Loverro says:

        David — I guess I’ve become immune from the crap I read about myself — including lies — I have come to view at as the cost of doing business. In the Wild West we live in today

        Reply
        • David Simon says:

          I let a lot of stuff go, too. As I said in the original commentary, you have to laugh at a lot of it. And much nonsense is fleeting and unimportant. I guess I hold published books at a higher standard, having written a couple tomes myself. And if I knew the problem here were consigned to the HP piece and only made reference to me being fired, that would be one thing. But no, I’ve read the manuscript: It isn’t simply that she says I was fired when I was not; she conjures from whole cloth a theory of unethical or as she puts it “unwarranted” journalistic practice that concerns these editors. It did not happen. And having been sent the book, and having sent her and her publisher a corrective three months ago, I can’t let this HP piece go. Indeed, it’s only now — with me going public over this harbinger — that the publisher is responding to the problem. Until this dustup, someone at Duke press had tossed the corrective in a drawer and just gone about the business of publishing her alternate reality.

          Reply
  15. Susie says:

    It is my observation that people will knowingly and self servingly do a wrong thing with intent because we live in a society where you can get away with it.

    I’m currently involved in litigation which is like swirling around in the 7th circle of hell for eternity, not to mention that it costs $$$ and even if rulings are made in your favor it costs yet more money to enforce them. Fighting the fight is exhausting and comes at a cost of more than just money – it’s soul killing.

    But so is saying nothing or letting someone get away with overt and intentional buuuullllshit that is hurtful and wrong.

    Having said that I find that I am so cynical at this point that I don’t believe they will do anything because, as you said, THEY KNOW and they’re doing it anyway. And the Huffington Post is aiding and abetting.

    If I’m you I would find the most vicious and aggressive libel attorney and pay him or her to write a very aggressive and threatening letter that suggests exactly what will be coming should they print the book with the libel intact. Not just to the publisher, but to Williams personally, and also the Huffington Post.

    But you being you I do believe the odds are that this blog post will get picked up by reputable press and go viral and that Williams and her publisher will find themselves inundated with opportunities to comment on their decision to ignore you and the truth.

    At least I hope that’s what happens.

    If not then get the hammer and hit’em hard.

    Reply
  16. Emily Willingham says:

    “The older I get, the more I think a happy family and an earned reputation are the only assets that matter.”

    True words and where all the the best morality tales point. The author may have self-torpedoed, but Duke University Press still has an opening for appropriate action. They had better do the right thing here if they want to retain their own earned reputation. From experience with such things, I can say that the social media virality that gives lies their lightning speed sends the correctives around almost as fast these days. The lie gets halfway around the world pretty quickly, but thanks to social media, the truth is not only already shod but also catching up for a photo finish. Indeed, for this situation, I’m discovering both simultaneously. Accusing a journalist in the absence of evidence of ethics violations is just unforgivable. I hope a public retraction and apology are forthcoming.

    Reply
  17. Dan Mitchell says:

    Linda Williams’ bio, parts of which read a little like a bad parody of late-80s-era campus PC:

    http://fm.berkeley.edu/people/faculty/linda-williams/

    Linda Williams teaches courses on popular moving-image genres (pornography, melodrama, and “body genres” of all sorts). She has also recently taught courses on Oscar Micheaux and Spike Lee, Luis Bunuel, eastern and western forms of melodrama, film theory, selected “sex genres,” and /The Wire./ Her books include a psychoanalytic study of Surrealist cinema, /Figures of Desire/ (1981), a co-edited volume of feminist film criticism (/Re-vision/, 1984), an edited volume on film spectatorship, /Viewing Positions/ (1993) and /Reinventing Film Studies/ (co-edited with Christine Gledhill, 2000). In 1989 she published a study of pornographic film entitled /Hard Core: Power, Pleasure and the Frenzy of the Visible/ (second edition 1999). This study of moving-image pornography looks seriously at the history and form of an enormously popular genre. In 2001 Williams published /Playing the Race Card: Melodramas of Black and White, from Uncle Tom to O.J. Simpson/ (2001, Princeton)–an analysis of racial melodrama spanning the 19th and 20th centuries of American culture. She has also edited a collection of essays on pornography, /Porn Studies/, featuring work by many U.C. Berkeley graduate students (Duke, 2004). Her most recent book is /Screening Sex /(Duke, 2008), a history of the revelation and concealment of sex at the movies.

    Reply
    • David Simon says:

      Again, as Pat Moynihan so famously said, she is entitled to her own opinions, and indeed, I wish her well in pursuing all of her themes and arguments. But especially when it comes to the lives and reputations of actual people, she’s not entitled to her own facts. No one is. Not by journalistic or academic standards.

      I honestly can’t assess whether she was being indifferent or sloppy with my biography, or what….

      Reply
      • Dan Mitchell says:

        I present this material for the general amusement of the interested.

        About 15 years ago, I knew somebody in an online forum who was a Berkeley film prof. I don’t know anything about the film department, but that person sounded a lot like Williams. So I assume the department is very, very Berkeley.

        Reply
      • kt says:

        After reflecting on her essay, not knowing what else was in her book, I’m gonna go with: sloppy. It seems more likely to me that she somehow convinced herself that this was actually true than that she made this error deliberately or maliciously. She appears to have assumed that everything that happens to any character in the newsroom storyline of season 5 is autobiographical. And I think — I THINK — she believes she is being complimentary by saying you bucked the big bad bosses and gave ‘em the screws in your later work.

        It’s unfortunate, really, as she is now in very hot water with her publisher over something she could have easily self-corrected by simply watching or reading any number of the interviews you’ve done on the subject. If she didn’t want to take your word, she could have called the Sun, but I don’t know why that would be necessary: if one’s aim is to analyze a creator’s intent there is little more than one could ask for than freely available and numerous media interviews with that creator carefully explaining both his intent and what are and are not the autobiographical elements of an overall fictional work.

        Perhaps the truth would not have been Dickensian enough! At least she didn’t conflate you with your other characters, I guess. I can’t picture you in a silk robe roaming west side streets with a shotgun, ready to pop a cap for some Honey Nut Cheerios. Now that’s an ethical breach.

        Reply
  18. Amy Goodwin says:

    I love the book Words a That Hurt Words That Heal by Telushkin. I summarized it on my website. http://amycgoodwin.com/2012/01/gossip/
    Essentially he says words can do irrevocable damage. Some cultures consider what you are describing as a form of murder. We call it character assassination. It is a reminder to all of us how careful we must be with our words. I am glad you have a forum to address what has happened, and I hope the problem is addressed quickly and to your satisfaction.

    Reply
  19. Robert Wright says:

    I’ve just read the HuffPo piece. They’ve taken out the reference to the ethical breach but it still says you were fired and, as you say, that’s defamatory.

    I was irritated by other points. She says that the Iraq veteran story that Templeton exaggerates was “entirely fabricated”. If I recall, the point about the story was that much of it was true but that he exaggerated details that were important to the person being written about. I’m a newspaper reporter and I know that details are important to people and I found that incident true to life. So it seems to me she got that wrong.

    On top of that, she accuses you of coming up with simplistic characters, pointing to Gus Haynes. I’ll admit that, as a sentimental reporter who’s had many of the experiences you detailed in The Wire, I loved Gus precisely because he was so perfect. I know there were a handful of other almost entirely positive characters – like Bunny Colvin – and some entirely negative ones, like Marlo. But the series’ beauty it seemed to me was both that so many characters were ambiguous and that so many changed (McNulty, Bubbles and Dennis Wise, to mention three). So she gets that badly wrong too, I think.

    I’m really sorry you’re facing this grief and I hope it gets resolved without your having to take anyone to court.

    Reply
    • David Simon says:

      The claims of “unwarranted use” of quotes and other stuff — to which I am genuinely clueless as to origin — were replete throughout the manuscript I read in April. And as is indicated in the update at the top of the post, they were all there on the way to the printer when I raised this yesterday. So was her more benign explanation of why I fired — which also isn’t true — that adorns this excerpt. There were a number of reasons why I was fired in the manuscript, seemingly. But I wasn’t fired at all. And some of those reasons were representative of substantive arguments that did occur but which did not and could not result in anyone being fired from a union shop like The Sun. And more upsetting, some of them were claims of ethical failures conjured from I don’t know where. These were never arguments or issues or considerations at any point. I was — and am — clueless. Honestly.

      Reply
    • katie says:

      I don’t understand why, in order to critique a work, or a body of work, people feel the need to try to delve into the psychology of the creator anyway. Why the need to make it personal?

      Reply
      • kt says:

        Oh, I don’t know. I think the psychology of the creator is imbued in the work in many cases, and the circumstances of their life — or at the very least, their intent — can be very useful in analysis, depending on what the work is. Certainly Emily Dickinson’s poems have a different resonance when you know she put them in a drawer and never showed them to anyone, and it’s hard to properly analyze Beethoven without knowing that he was stone-deaf by the time he wrote the 9th Symphony; no Salinger critique worth its salt fails to mention that he was likely traumatized by his experiences in WWII.

        (Of course this is not true with every piece of artwork, some of which arrive straight from the ether with little relationship to the creator’s life; I don’t think you need to know much about George R.R. Martin to understand A SONG OF ICE AND FIRE beyond that he is a big fan of British history and ‘Ivanhoe’.)

        In this case, I do believe it is useful in analyzing THE WIRE to know that its creators did live and work in Baltimore, that one was a journalist at the Sun and the other a cop turned teacher, and that many of the storylines are based on (though not exact depictions of) real-life events. What I can’t fathom is why on earth, if you are analyzing a modern artwork whose creators are alive and have provided copious commentary on that work and their own lives that is available at the touch of a few buttons, why someone would not use this information in their analysis. If there were interviews with Emily Dickinson on YouTube explaining her dang self, academics would use them!

        Reply
        • katie says:

          **phone crashed during submission. Sorry if it’s a.duplicate.**

          Meh. I’m not sold on that. To me, there is a difference between understanding context and wild speculation about what you think makes a person tick. Personally, I think the important relationship is between the piece of work and the viewer/watcher/consumer. The rest is a little too cult of personality for me. But, yes, here the speculation that happens to contradict with the ubiquitous reality is particularly baffling.

          Reply
  20. boot-cheese-3000 says:

    Damn, talk about bitter-without-the-sweet irony…………….

    …………welcome to post-Millenium Amerikkka where the truth is ignored and buried under a ton of lies. Why? Because DRAMA SELLS. These assholes know what they’re doing, it’s all about that Almighty Dollar Dollar Bill Y’all. They won’t make any money being honest, objective, and unbiased, they have to stir the pot by tossing untruths in the mix to attract the bloodthirsty swine with no lives or souls. This doesn’t surprise me in the least, ever since that reporter from the New York Times (what was the name of that Black dude?) was fired for lying in some of his articles it seems journalism has hit rock bottom and hasn’t climbed from the muck since, just sinking further. Unfortunately blogs unlike this one haven’t helped make situations any better. I see exactly why George Bernard Shaw retired several years ago, he knew and saw what was going on and couldn’t stand to be a part of the farce–there IS no such thing as Journalistic Integrity. All it’s about is who gets the story out 1st no matter how skewed or false the details are. It’s gotten to the point that I don’t read up on certain news stories until a month later when I feel that the facts are str8, and even then they aren’t. I hope your next move is suing the funky draws off these idiots, I bet then they’ll take your complaints seriously when reports of libel/slander hits the public eye. Money seems to motiv8te people in that way. :D

    NEVER, I repeat NEVER, trust a prof. from UC-Jerktown.

    On a different note I was thinking about you the other day and this is why:

    http://www.chopra.com/about-us/david-simon-md

    I’m certain this is a different David Simon altogether. You hear of your Spiritual Twin before, your Mystical Doppleganger?

    Good luck on getting this sorted out homie, we’re all supporting you in this yet another attack on your name and reputation. Don’t allow it to ruin your holiday weekend either.

    Reply
    • David Simon says:

      I am distinct from Dr. Simon, the late transcendentalist. Even more regrettably, from a financial perspective, I am distinct from David Simon, the shopping mall magnate who is among the highest paid individuals in the country. There are others, too. There is a David Simon who has a gig as a sportswriter in Hawaii. Him, I might honestly envy.

      Reply
      • boot-cheese-3000 says:

        Why do you envy him–because he lives in Hawaii? That’s a no-brainer.

        Reply
      • katie says:

        There is a famous model/head of a modeling agency with whom I share a name. My brother once mailed me an article about her with a post it note stuck.on it that said “you need all help you can get.” Funny stuff.

        Reply
  21. H. Arthur says:

    David Simon, you are my hero. I love the way you’re fighting this claptrap: with the undisputed facts.

    Reply
  22. Bryan says:

    Man, the only way we can get a blog post is when some random writer makes stuff up. Get back on it Simon :)

    Reply
    • David Simon says:

      Been very, very busy with script work. I owe the blog some weeding and seeding, I know.

      Reply
      • Frank Black says:

        Script work, huh? Well, that’s good at least. Hopefully, something they will actually let you produce and develop.

        Reply
      • Lakshman Hariharan says:

        Rumor has it that this script work is for a new HBO special on the civil rights movement or Dr. King or both I guess since they are both kind of inseparable. Heck if I’ve heard of it then its not exactly top secret. Either ways I can’t wait to see what it is.

        Reply
  23. Davis Rogan says:

    Shitty the circumstances … it’s nice to see you back in this forum. But that article, such a cringeworthy ammount of “not getting it” and this need to sprinkle haterade in with the praise. Sad shit, indeed.

    Reply
  24. John Doppler says:

    I feel your pain, David. I’ve also been targeted by a defamatory piece on HuffPo, and it’s clear that their disregard for journalistic ethics goes right to the core of the organization.

    The volunteers who police the comments are protective of their bloggers’ and editors’ fiction, and will usually delete any attempt to set the record straight in the comments on the site. Their forms are useless. Their legal department is unresponsive, which is not surprising given the number of libel suits they face each year.

    And that’s the only action that will get their attention: a lawsuit.

    Unfortunately, as others have pointed out, winning a defamation suit is extraordinarily difficult no matter how solid the evidence. In many cases damages are limited to actual financial losses, something that’s virtually impossible to prove in a character assassination case. The burden of proof is high, the damages limited, and the trials are time-consuming and costly.

    It’s a no-win situation for the victim, which is why HuffPo engages in this behavior with such impunity and contempt for ethical concerns.

    Reply
  25. Brendan says:

    Will you sue for libel?

    Reply
    • David Simon says:

      Would like to avoid it. I’ve never been litigious. Never sued anyone for anything, ever, in fact.

      If the make-believe details of my supposed ethical collapse are still in the full published manuscript — which I have not yet seen — I think I might have to. This false claim of me being fired, while libelous, isn’t as much an attack on my character as the claim that I was fired with cause, or gave anyone cause to consider firing me. The manuscript itself repeated that claim as a basic premise in a variety of places.

      Reply
      • Brendan says:

        Here’s the $64,000 question….if you litigate, would Carroll and Marimow come to your defense and state, on the record, that you were not fired? I wonder if you burning that bridge would come back to haunt you in a trial as you seek to restore your reputation.

        Reply
        • David Simon says:

          Not even a $4 question. I have my buyout papers and the Tribune Company, which owned The Sun at that point, has copies of the papers indicating that the decision to leave The Sun’s employ was mine alone and voluntary. And of course I have a bank deposit of a year’s worth of salary for taking the buyout along with all the others. This wasn’t anything whispered. The Sun buyout of 1995 was thoroughly public and thoroughly diuscussed. And there was contemporaneous coverage by other media when all of us left the newsroom, some of it naming me explicitly as having chosen to take the buyout.

          Lastly, my immediate supervisor knew of the final attempt to retain me and the offer of successive raises. She is a NYT editor at present. But saying all this is superfluous. Even if they were necessary to establish anything, I don’t think either of the fellows you mention would perjure themselves over such a matter.

          And we are getting way ahead of ourselves here. This HP essay is only a harbinger of a larger issue. I’ll have to look at that published manuscript and see what stands uncorrected, whether it is sufficiently indifferent to facts, and whether that indifference constitutes something I need to counter in public. I can tell you that if it comes to that, I’ll commit in advance to having any achieved damages donated to charity. Once again, it ain’t about money.

          I was libeled one other time by the Columbia Flyer, a suburban newspaper in Maryland which was actually owned by The Sun. That paper ran an editorial based on a local bookstore appearance when I was hawking The Corner. They praised the book’s apparent authenticity and attributed it to my sordid and frightening past life as a heroin addict. Secretly, I was amused; at that point — and now — some of my close and valued friends were recovering addicts. But publicly, I settled with the newspaper before filing a suit for the sum of $15,000, donated to the Parks & People Foundation of Baltimore’s Ella Thompson Fund.

          I’m angrier about this. The Flyer’s libel was a genuine misunderstanding on the part of the writer. Here, the author was alerted to the problem months in advance, yet proceeded without regard to such a corrective.

          Reply
          • Dan Mitchell says:

            “…attributed it to my sordid and frightening past life as a heroin addict”

            This is the best thing i will read today.

            This Williams thing would be weird even if you hadn’t warned her and her publisher. The general details of your exit from the Sun are pretty well-known among people who follow your work (or follow the newspaper industry). For someone writing a book to not know them, and not bother to look them up in public sources, is just bizarre.

            Reply
  26. katie says:

    Moral/legal/ethical issues aside, Ms. Williams needs a better editor. No one should ever use that Dickensian word fourteen times in one article. Three times just in one paragraph. How do these things get published??

    Reply
  27. Barbara says:

    My blood is boiling for you, really – I have also taken a buyout and later left another paper over strong philosophical differences (publisher promising stories for ads). That you made these corrections yet she let them stay to fit her narrative is completely outrageous. A quick google search of “David Simon buyout” handily confirms the corrections you made. Very surprised that Duke U press let this go through.

    Reply
  28. Paul says:

    I remember the professor who supervised my MA thesis had a book coming out on Duke UP at the same time; he told me that the press had a reputation for a super-rigorous review process (don’t know if that varies by academic field or it’s across the board). I’m amazed that any academic reviewer wouldn’t get back in touch when the (more or less) subject of the book itself sends and email that calls “bullshit” on them. That’s completely unacceptable.

    Reply
  29. Chris Smith says:

    David:

    I’m an academic author and I spend a lot of time working with interpreting others’ work (though, to be fair, mostly from the 19th century). This sucks. My editors at Illinois would never have let me get away with this. I surmise that if Duke editors were to receive commentary on the inaccuracy of Linda Williams’s work, they would listen. But that’s me being an optimist.

    The other reality is that a half-dozen people on this thread could go to the Amazon site and nail her in the user reviews.

    I’m sorry this happened.

    Reply
    • David Simon says:

      I copied my concerns to Duke University Press officials three months ago or thereabouts, as I said. And I emailed two of them today after reading of my firing from The Sun. I’ve heard nothing back.

      As I said, I don’t know if substantive changes were made from the manuscript I read. I only know that this first essay, premised on the book, has my editors firing me at The Sun, which simply never happened. If that’s a harbinger, then the book might be quite problematic indeed. Putting the best possible face on it, perhaps Dr. Williams did make the manuscript accurate only to write this essay and again have a brainfart when it comes to my departure from The Sun. If so, she — and the HP — should manage enough good faith to simply correct the falsehood.

      Reply
      • Frank Black says:

        What’s funny is that she is acting almost exactly like Scott Templeton. She starts by changing some details here and there, maybe she’ll change the truth of an entire chapter in the final manuscript and then hell knows what…maybe she’ll pretend to be in contact with a serial killer.

        But in the end, we all know that truth doesn’t sell as much as lies, she’s doing what paparazzi or gossip websites do with “famous Hollywood actresses”(or even not so famous Hollywood actresses), which is: spreading rumors on whom they are dating. The only difference is that what paparazzi and gossip websites do is a form of speculation, while what Dr. Williams is doing is actually libel.
        The only thing i can think of right know is: “A lie ain’t a side of a story. It’s just a lie”.

        Reply
  30. Bernard says:

    Well WTF indeed!! W…T…F…!! I just pre-ordered her book so I can burn it at the stake. And I emailed her asking for comment.

    David, there is one thing for sure: You will need to help remaster The Wire onto blu-ray (with the same aspect ratio and cropping as in the original and as you intended). I feel that if Prof. Williams had been able to see it on blu-ray, she might not have made such a truly horrendous mistake. Instead of Prof. Williams, I will now think of her as Wrong Williams.

    Reply
  31. Dan Mitchell says:

    I’m a big believer in just linking to whatever you’re talking about, even (or especially) when it’s as awful as this. It’s just how the Web works, and while I understand the impulse, leaving out the link is an unnecessary contrivance that forces those readers who are the most truly interested to run a search, as I just did.

    There is no excuse for what she wrote, especially with her having been corrected in advance, and I agree it’s probably defamatory. But I read it quickly and I’m missing where she wrote or hinted that the firing was over an ethical matter.

    Now I’m going to go see what she has to say about the show, in hopes that it will be entertainingly stupid.

    Reply
    • David Simon says:

      As I indicated in the essay, there was a specific and detailed theory of unethical behavior that was repeatedly referenced throughout the galley copy of the book that I was sent three months ago. It was conjured by the author without corroboration, and from whole cloth. I sent corrective material three months ago.

      This essay on Huffington Post is the first I have heard from Dr. Williams since and apparently, I still needed to be fired from The Baltimore Sun. Obviously, I have some doubt that the other suggestions of unethical behavior on my part are gone from the manuscript, but I don’t know. I am reacting to what was published today.

      As to your notion that I should use this site to link to the article, the fact is that as I don’t know if her manuscript still contains the claims of unethical practices on my part, in addition to this claim of having been fired from the newspaper, I can’t know if a legal response will be required or even appropriate. But if it is, my stance has to be is that I object to her, and for that matter HP, continuing to disseminate material that they know is false. If that is my stance, I certainly undercut it by directing others to that material. Hence my need to remove the cite from your comment. Sorry.

      Reply
      • Dan Mitchell says:

        Ah, gotcha. So only half her libel made it through to HuffPo. Do you still have the galley?

        I stopped reading her piece about halfway through, when it became clear that the whole thing was based on her either reading your mind or half-remembering things you’ve said in public. Not one actual quote from you, just flat descriptions of your opinions on things, with no sources for any of them.

        Have you ever actually lashed out at Dickens, or complained about comparisons of “The Wire” to Dickens? Not that you would have been wrong to do so, but from my own half-memory, Marimow actually used the phrase “the Dickensian thing,” didn’t he? In any case, I never took it to be anything more than an example of an image-driven editor’s fatuous utterance.

        Reply
        • David Simon says:

          I’m not a Dickens fan, overall. But I certainly don’t think he’s anything other than a masterful writer. Politically, I think that Dickens never had the stomach to bring a narrative to a dark enough place where one might question the social and economic mores of industrialized England. He more often resolved the narrative with a rich, benign uncle and a dollop of coincidence. But as a writer, he deserves his place in the canon.

          The other ridiculous notion was that I ever compared The Wire to Moby Dick. I never, ever did. It bears no relationship to that book whatsoever. None. I cited Moby Dick merely to talk about the notion that when you are reading that novel, you don’t meet Ahab or board the Pequod until chapter four or five. You don’t meet the white whale for longer. I was talking about The Wire adopting the pacing of a novel or novella and I randomly picked a novel that I thought most people had read, so they would understand the analogy. I could have as easily said Huck Finn or The Scarlet Letter, which also bear zero relation to The Wire. For her to cite my ego in comparing The Wire to Melville is genuinely incoherent. But again, I don’t mind incoherent. There’s a lot of that in the world.

          Reply
          • Chris Walsh says:

            Dickens certainly pulled his punches in Hard Times, showing little sympathy with the idea that unions were the answer to the problems faced by the industrial workforce. Also, in Nicholas Nickleby the Cheeryble brothers are a fairytale copout, benign capitalists who couldn’t possibly have attained their comfortable position by behaving as well as they do.

            Reply
            • David Simon says:

              And yet to this moment, unions and collective bargaining rights have indeed been the only substantive answer to capital. I’ll leave that punch out there, thank you very much.

              Union, union, union.

              Reply
      • Dan Mitchell says:

        I don’t think linking has ever undercut anyone’s legal claims in cases like this. Clearly, accusing someone of libel isn’t tantamount to an endorsement of that libel, and a judge would have to be nuts to rule otherwise.

        Reply
        • David Simon says:

          I dunno.

          As reporters, we were taught that we could compound the tort of libel even by repeating it as a means of correcting the mistake and so we were taught to write corrections that did not explain the initial error but instead simply stated what was accurate and expressed the newspaper’s regret. Even repeating the libel as a means of retracting it was said to be legally problematic. Ergo, the converse might be true: A potential plaintiff seeking redress for a libel who himself advances the access to that libel has undercut his very claim.
          I’d be curious to hear from a communications law maven.

          Reply
    • Kevin Stevens says:

      One other way about the web works is that by linking to it from here, Google, Bing, et al, give the piece more authority, in addition to the SEO witchcraft that HuffPo indulges in already. The search engines aren’t going to care about context or facts, just a bare-semantic analysis that tells them the link is relevant. It’s not just a matter of dignifying it with a link, it’s denying it credibility as all.

      Reply
      • Dan Mitchell says:

        Then it shouldn’t be written about at all. Simon cited fears over a link potentially undercutting any possible legal claim of his, which I don’t think is really a concern (though I’m not a lawyer), but it’s still sort of a valid reason.

        Not linking to something just because it will drive traffic there is just what I said: a contrivance, and one that creates unnecessary work for the very readers who are most interested in all the facts. It’s like a reporter leaving out quotes from FBI surveillance tapes of mobsters, so as not to “promote” organized crime. A link is a fact. In this case, it’s the central fact at hand. Another example: a history seminar about Mein Kampf that doesn’t make any use of the actual book.

        Reply
  32. TCinLA says:

    Mr. Simon: As a fellow professional writer, it’s time to call in what I call “the little bulldog,” my nickname for me ever-so-nice attorney, who has no trouble baring her fangs and going for the throat in situations like this. I’m certain you have one on retainer also.

    Like you said, you only have one reputation. And for those who think the standards in what currently passes for “The Academy” (I call it Acadamania, a name I have found it well deserves) are somehow higher than elsewhere, my reply is “Can I have some of what it is you’re smoking?”

    What she needs is a damn good whacking. The kind a writer remembers. Please do not be nice about this. You have tried nice and it didn’t work. Like I say to people in the business “I’m your best friend or your worst enemy. Your choice.”

    Good luck and good riddance.

    Reply
    • Kevin Stevens says:

      That’s a tough one to pull the trigger on. Libel is a tough sell in U.S. courts.

      Reply
      • Bernard says:

        “Reckless disregard of the facts” IIRC, is the standard. On the face of it (prima facia), it seems to meet that standard.

        Reply
    • TCinLA says:

      I have great hopes, reading all this today (July18) that the post I put at HuffP to that article immediately after reading your first post here, in which I publicly warned the author that she had made a grievous error and pointing out her potential liability in the situation, had some small measure of success in helping you to score the correction and get DUP to make the necessary changes.

      Authors themselves may know nothing about libel law, but when someone posts the necessary information and includes the words “legal liability,” it’s my experience it will get their attention and concentrate their mind on solving the issue (it certainly did that with me in my “learning experience” 40 years ago).

      I’m really glad to hear this has worked out as it has for you, Mr. Simon.

      Reply
  33. Rajiv S says:

    ” ‘The Wire’ creator David Simon BLASTS UC Berkeley Professor and HuffPost… ”

    I feel guilty reading Huffington Post (like shopping at Walmart). Can you endorse any better online sources of information? Have you thought more about charging for this site and posting a little more often?

    Even if it doesn’t save journalism from a race to the bottom, I’d be happy to pay for something better than we’re getting.

    Reply
  34. Les says:

    She likely felt that she was paying you a compliment by having you be the avenging hero. Choosing imagery over facts is an unfortunate and common habit for journalists and writers these days.

    Also, she really likes the word “Dickensian”.

    Reply
  35. Kevin Stevens says:

    When these kind of things happen to me–albeit on a much smaller scale, as no one is going to write a book about the software I write anytime soon–I find myself wondering whether to put the error down to incompetence or malice.

    You can usually put a 95%+ probability on them not knowing what the fuck they are doing, but this seems to fall into the latter category. A lot more people are going to pay attention to this book because of this shit, which is exactly the kind of click-bait HuffPo vomits forth each day. Not that you really have a choice but to give it even tangential publicity, as this crap cannot stand.

    Reply
  36. Richard says:

    Sensationalism is the name of the game with the press currently. I always thought that the character who says “I’m leaving the newspaper to go write a great American novel” was a stand-in for you. The great novel being….The Wire (or Corner).

    This writer at HuffPo has no understanding of the show as well. You should sue for libel on her ‘analysis’ of the show as well.

    Reply
    • David Simon says:

      Everyone can think what they want about the work. Having read enough of that stuff, I can’t really get excited either way.

      Problem is I only have one reputation and I gotta live a life with it. And the internet is the internet.

      Reply
      • CorrectiveStretching says:

        Your defense of your reputation reminds me of Mowbray, from Richard the II.

        Mowbray:
        “…The purest treasure mortal times afford
        Is spotless reputation; that away,
        Men are but gilded loam or painted clay.
        …Mine honor is my life: both grow in one;
        Take honor from me, and my life is done.
        Then, dear my liege, mine honor let me try;
        In that I live, and for that will I die.”

        Reply

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. […] comments to Simon’s blog post and his frequent, interspersed replies are equally enlightening. Starting with this one from, it would appear, a very qualified fellow newspaper […]

  2. […] New York associate media editor Jeremy Barr, The Wire co-creator David Simon has today updated his July 2 blog post. A post that began with this very eloquent […]

  3. […] comments to Simon’s blog (and his frequent replies) are equally enlightening. Starting with this one from a very qualified fellow newspaper […]

  4. […] New York associate media editor Jeremy Barr, The Wire co-creator David Simon has today updated his July 2 blog post. A post that began with this very eloquent […]

  5. […] never fired Simon. He took a voluntary buyout, along  with 120 other newsroom employees—even, if Simon is to be believed, rebuffing an offer to increase his salary if he would stay. Worse still, Simon pointed out the […]

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