Friday, April 25, 2008

This isn't worth getting mad about, but I've got cabin fever

I was talking to a professor the other day and she said that we don't have enough shame in our culture, and that we could use shame as a powerful tool for deterrence of bad acts. Now, I was raised Catholic, so I got guilt instead. But my thorough knowledge of guilt translates well to shame, and I'm going to shame somebody right now for the benefit of all ten or so of you who read this blog.

Karen Springen of Newsweek is a bad journalist.

One of her recent "web exclusive" stories was the story of "My Beautiful Mommy." Springen wrote:

When she was pregnant with her son Junior, who turns nine this month, Gabriela Acosta ballooned from 115 pounds to 196. Acosta lost the weight but wound up with stretched, saggy skin. Even her son noticed it. He told her that her stomach looked "pruney," the result, he thought, of staying in the shower too long. So the 29-year-old stay-at-home mom scheduled a consultation with Dr. Michael Salzhauer, a board-certified plastic surgeon in Bal Harbour, Fla.

Acosta told Salzhauer that she wasn't sure how to talk to her son about the procedures she was considering. That's when he showed her the manuscript for his children's picture book, "My Beautiful Mommy" (Big Tent Books), out this Mother's Day.

She goes on like this for three pages. But there's an important detail that she forgot to mention.

Big Tent Books is a vanity press. They print the books and sell them back to the author, but don't distribute them to stores. This book isn't worth an article any more than some conspirazoid's self-published expose on the missing connection between JFK and Vince Lombardi.

If you see "My Beautiful Mommy" on a shelf somewhere or for sale on Amazon, it's only because Springen's non-story story brough the book to public attention. So, Karen Springen of Newsweek, what's the deal? Do you own stock in Big Tent Books? Or were you just trying to meet a deadline, comfortable in the knowledge that whatever you report, even if it's incredibly insignificant, technically becomes news? Is this something you're going to teach your classes at Northwestern?

See, now isn't shaming fun? It's more fun when you do it to a stranger. If I knew her I'd probably give her another chance, but I don't know her so to hell with her.

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