Was Viacom author Richard Clarke's appearance on Viacom's 60 Minutes unholy in some way? Is there a sleazy pipeline from Simon & Schuster to CBS? In yesterday's edition of the (subscription-only) Publishers Lunch, S&S's Adam Rothberg made a convincing case that plenty of S&S books get flogged on other networks:
Tonight, for example, the company’s Atria division is launching LOVE AND DEATH, their embargoed Courtney Love book, on NBC’s Dateline. Rothberg notes that Hillary Clinton’s LIVING HISTORY (still their biggest embargoed book) launched on ABC, while the Central Park Jogger book was broken on NBC, and quickly cites other big books that have been featured on other networks’ news magazines (Dr. Phil, Mariel Hemingway, Steve Brill, and so on).
If there's a problem here, it's that TV often defines "news" as "whatever's in a high-profile book that's just been published." In the past week, Karen Hughes was on every TV show in America, apart from maybe SpongeBob SquarePants. That's because it's possible to construct a "news hook" around Hughes, not because anything she has to say at this moment is actually news.
It's really easy to generate a story out of a newly published book. It's not just that authors with new books make themselves available for interviews -- it's that publishers routinely provide suggested questions to interviewers. The story writes itself.
At least, with Clarke, there was a story. Saying it was wrong to put him on 60 Minutes implies that what he was saying wasn't newsworthy. If it wasn't newsworthy, why is everyone in the news media, pro- or anti-Clarke, treating it as newsworthy?