Ghostwriting and ethics
Good morning. This is working theology.
I recently heard some marketers say, when conducting market research surveys, “Whatever numbers we need, we’ll reverse engineer the math to hit those numbers.” They said the same thing about headlines. It gave me pause, but it also made me think about larger issues in marketing and publishing.
First, analysts. Many large, well-known analyst firms rank the “best software for this,” or “top 10 organizations for that.” What’s also well-known about them is that they have a “pay-to-play” business model. That is, if you pay them enough money, they’ll rank you higher. I’ve resolved that if the rankings don’t point to some objective measurement—market capitalization, profitability, or something—then I don’t trust it.
Second, ghostwriting. I have a lot to say about this, but for now I’ll keep it brief. Everyone knows that many popular business leaders have ghostwriters. That is, when you see their name pop up in Forbes or Business Insider, it’s probably not they who wrote the article. Disclosure: Sometimes I write articles like that.
This is a problem for many reasons. John Piper, a popular pastor and writer, has strong opinions on ghostwriting, which is a little unusual for a popular pastor and writer. He believes ghostwriting creates distrust in readers. It makes leaders appear more prolific than they are. It devalues the writer’s craft. It doesn’t accurately represent human limitations or how meaning is derived with language.
Ever since I heard Piper explain his reasoning about ghostwriting, I’ve felt leery of the whole industry. It’s an epidemic not only in Christian publishing but in marketing and business publishing as well.
Here’s Piper’s take on the subject.
I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately, mostly because of the practices I hear from other marketers, my own job requirements, and in my own reading. I’ve blacklisted several magazines from my inbox because I know they have these practices, and I wonder if others do too.
I know I’ve said this about several of my posts, but I want to follow up this topic in future newsletters. It’s a topic that’s dear to me, and it has ramifications for business leaders and Christians alike.
Thanks for reading.