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A Word About #FridayReads

Shortly after Ricky Gervais hosted the Golden Globes last year and roasted his fellow celebrities, there was a disquieting feeling among his fans that maybe he wasn’t as interested in speaking Truth to Power as much as he was a bit of a jerk.

That’s how I’m feeling these days about Jennifer Weiner.

As I’ve mentioned before, I have long loved the works of Weiner, dating back to discovering Good in Bed at age 21. I’ve given her books to friends and family with love, and I have always believed that we’d hit it off like long-lost girlfriends if we ever went out for drinks. I’ve cheered when she’s done good things to promote women authors, such as sponsoring a giveaway for new author Sarah Pekkanen (if you bought Pekkanen’s book, you received a copy of a Weiner book of your choice) or calling out the New York Times in what became known as FrazenFreude.

But lately, I’ve felt that Weiner is not speaking up for what she believes as much as acting like a book-world bully, from her Twitter attacks on Book Riot to her screed against FridayReads. For those of you who have missed the FridayReads drama, you can read the Washington Post article here. You can also read Weiner’s blog post on it here (which is more thoughtful than what comes across on Twitter), BookMaven’s (Bethanne Patrick) post here and BookLadyBlog’s (Rebecca Joines Schinsky) response here.

While I had never given any thought to whether some content on FridayReads was paid, having the disclosures on their website satisfies me. As a reader and blogger (and someone who has spent most of her adult life contemplating ethics in journalism), I don’t feel like I was taken advantage of, or even lied to. Not to mention that if the worst mistake you make in life is around a hashtag, you’re probably doing okay.

Still, there’s room for debate about ethics in the publishing world, especially as authors and bloggers find new ways to reach audiences. There are some who blur the line between advertising and original content. I believe it’s positive that Patrick listened to the FridayReads feedback and is labeling paid content with #promo. But I also believe it matters whether you believe, as I do, that no one was deliberately trying to snooker booklovers. It bothers me that Weiner is trying to impale Patrick on charges of being unethical. While Weiner may not be a household name, she wields a fair amount of influence on a large segment of readers (at a reading I went to two years ago, the women there would have lined up in front of a firing squad for her). Apart from being a bit baffled that she’s spent so much time picking fights with people with a tenth of her celebrity, it makes me sad that someone I’ve admired has become publically mean to a woman who started out FridayReads prizes by giving away her own books. (In the interest of full disclosure, I’ve never met Bethanne Patrick, although I’m sure that we too would hit it off over drinks).  

Of course Weiner can say and do whatever she wants on Twitter, on her blog or in her books. But I’ve always felt that the book community on Twitter is a friendly and forgiving lot, whether it’s the universal love for @judyblume, disagreeing with someone’s recommendation, or sticking it out with a favorite author on Twitter as she incessantly promotes her new TV show.

So in that spirit, I'm not giving up (yet) on Weiner. I'm looking forward to reading her new book. And I’m keeping up the FridayReads widget on this blog, and will continue to participate, and I hope you will too. It’s a fun way to see what other people are reading and to engage in discussion with other booklovers. And in the end, fun, reading and discussion are the main reasons I’m on Twitter.

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