A writer friend of mine insists that the restrictions placed on membership by professional genre fiction writing organizations and conventions are there because it assures the writers applying for membership have been properly vetted.
The term means that a writer’s work has been confirmed as accurate, that agents have screened it and editors have honed it. Of course, my friend is ignoring the obvious – no writer is properly vetted anymore. The big publishers refuse to pay for it and the small ones never could afford it. James Frey and Margaret Selzer are just two recent examples of writers published by major publishing houses who were exposed as frauds. Sadly, this lack of real vetting applies to journalism as well.
How does all this happen? We readers allow it. We settle for less than the best. We do not demand excellence. We accept what we are told without question because it comes from our newspaper, television, the Internet or an email from a friend. How many false stories circulate because no one stops to check the facts? Thank goodness for www.snopes.com.
In All the President’s Men, a book about the scandal that forced Nixon from the White House, the reporters dug out the facts, they followed the trail and they told us what was happening. They did not partner with the government; they exposed it. Why can we trust what they revealed? They had to obtain confirmations of their facts from at least two separate sources and those sources could not be other reporters. Their editor would not allow the story to go to press without that substantiation.
As citizens, it is our responsibility to question everything we are told. We should not assume that our representatives in government will act honorably – especially since there is so much proof that they will not. Greed and graft has been part of government since time began. This country is no exception. Mark Twain said it best. “Patriotism is supporting your country all the time, and your government when it deserves it.”
All writers should produce work that is properly vetted. All editors should require confirmation, checking sources and validating the facts. I’d like to see the population demand that higher standard.
We will be better for it – as readers and as citizens.