Friday, July 27, 2007

Political bias in PW book reviews under fire

David Harsanyi, the author of a new book called Nanny State, criticizes the left-wing bias displayed in Publisher Weekly's book reviews. He catalogues a number of examples of PW bashing conservative bestsellers, and notes that Tammy Bruce also pointed out this trend a couple of years ago. (Thanks to Michelle Malkin for linking to David's post and therefore bringing it to my attention.)

Readers of this blog know that I've called out instances of bias several times before (e.g. here, here, here and here), and in my view Kirkus and the Book Standard have displayed a similar tendency in their reviews.

Before going any further, I'll add that I don't have an axe to grind with the trade pubs. In fact, PW has been reasonably fair to World Ahead. They ran a balanced article when we announced our WND Books deal last fall, and their recent review of Ike's Final Battle (available on the book's Amazon listing) was positive -- albeit the book isn't written with a political point-of-view. Hence I don't believe that PW is out to "get" World Ahead over our company's right-of-center focus. But nonetheless the fact still stands that their reviews are routinely negative for conservative titles and positive for liberal ones.

This persistent bias is a disservice to the publishing industry and consumers. While journals like National Review or Mother Jones can be expected to review books from an ideological viewpoint, the trade pubs would do better to focus on the quality of a book's writing and design. And while non-fiction reviews ought to comment on how effectively an author makes his or her point, the reviewer's agreement with that point shouldn't be that important. Whether or not you agree with a point is often determined by how you see the world, so if a liberal reviewer doesn't become a free marketeer after reading John Stossel it doesn't mean his book was poor.

Let's hope that the pubs acknowledge this problem and try to address it, perhaps by giving their reviewers instructions to leave personal politics out of the equation.

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