Almost All the News Fit To Print
He did a great job of presenting the facts, considering his closeness with Random House. The article contained a couple of factual errors, but missed the real story of the session.
Where do I get my opinion that he's close to Random House?
He sat on the Random House side of the court and was obviously very familiar and friendly with them, engaging in frequent and obviously friendly conversation.
That's totally understandable. After all, he covers the book publishing industry and it's his job to know the players.
However, he did not attempt to introduce himself to us before the hearing started although there was ample time. You might also have expected that he would have wanted to familiarize himself with the other side in a controversy.
After the court hearing was over, he engaged in 10 minutes of chitchat with the Random House execs and attorneys. Everything was packed up and were ready to leave the court. Still, the New York Times reporter made no move to come and talk to my attorney. Finally, because he had to walk past us to get to the exit, he had no choice but to engage us in conversation.
As a former reporter myself, I can understand needing to remain on good relations with people from the largest publishing company in the world. He will have to work with those people on a regular basis for the foreseeable future. I am not a continuing presence in his work life and, thus, of far less lasting importance.
As a former university journalism instructor, I've talked to my classes about how coverage and news judgement is shaped by these sorts of personal relationships and the dangers of getting too close.
The mistakes in the article were minor, but avoidable.
First of all, the story said that I was represented by Fischbein Badillo Wagner Harding. That changed a couple of months ago when my litigation team was among those at FBWH selected to merge with Cozen, O'Connor.
As a reporter, I was taught to check details ("Is your name spelled 'Jon' or 'John?' Is it 'Smythe' or 'Smith?') Asking for and getting a business card from my attorney would have avoided that minor error.
As I described above, he was animated and familiar with the Random House folks and did not seem to want to engage us.
The other mistake is understandable but also avoidable. The article states, "Mr. Perdue's two books have sold about 570,000 copies, according to court filings."
The context that is missing (but contained in the court filings) that affects this number is that The Da Vinci Legacy was a bestseller when it was published in 1983. Unfortunately, my publisher, Pinnacle Books, was headed into bankruptcy and sent me only one royalty statement. That was the only one available and covered less than six months worth of sales. In addition, that royalty statement was probably doctored. One of the factors that precipitated the bankruptcy was when several authors, including me, hired an auditor to examine royalty accounts.
The actual sales were considerably higher.
Now, Mr. Wyatt would have known that had he been as familiar with the facts of my work as he is with Random House. But for the reasons I state above, he is not simply because Random House is far more important to him on a continuing basis than I am.
I doubt that I would have been able to do a better job if I had been in Mr. Wyatt's shoes.
But I also think that closeness to Random House has kept him from asking a couple of questions that could lead him to a far bigger story here.
I'll post what that that story is after I get packed for the ride to JFK and back home. Or from the airport.