Sometimes real life gets in the way. More like work gets in the way, and this blog, which is just musings and helping me to shape the book idea, get pushed to the side. That’s what happened at the end of this week. C’est la vie.
I’m reading a Jodi Picoult book right now for my book group. I am not a fan of Jodi Picoult, not after I read one of her books and discovered it to be filled with all kinds of misinformation. I can accept suspending belief sometimes, but when you start reading one bit of incorrect information after another bit of incorrect information, the story begins to take on a sour taste and the author loses all sense of credibility. That it was fiction shouldn’t matter. If you can’t present the truth, maybe you shouldn’t be writing the story.
Ironically, the inaccuracies in that Jodi Picoult book involved State College and Penn State. We could laugh about the character that took the train between Lancaster and State College because we joked that it was obvious Picoult never made the trip to State College. We have no train station; hence, there is no train service between here and Lancaster. But as the inaccuracies built up, well, it wasn’t so funny anymore.
Jodi Picoult’s book is parallel to the way the media have treated Penn State, State College, and the entire Sandusky tragedy. I read an article that changed the name from Old Main to Administration Building, and when I questioned it, I was told it was an editorial decision because the general public wouldn’t know what Old Main is. I countered with, well, you could use the descriptor, but in the end, it was like the imaginary train station. By itself, it was a little thing. It meant nothing in the grand scheme of things. Except those little things began to build. I would read articles about the town I’ve lived in for 27 years, not counting my school years, and about people I knew, and not recognize anyone or anything. The press continues to distort the story and seem to encourage wrong impressions. Example, the recent Sports Illustrated article that looked at the change of medical personnel on the football field. The story glorified one man, vilified another man (who, admittedly, deserved it), but the story also twisted the story to make it sound like the glorified man was fired all together. The story was also filled with a lot of anonymous sources and only gave one point of view of the story (a trend I’ve noticed in the past with this particular writer, especially when he covered Penn State). But the thing that bothered me most was the letter to the editor that it featured two weeks later, a letter that was totally wrong in its comments and assumptions. So, not only did SI not present a completely factual story, the magazine promoted that view with the letter to the editor that it printed as its banner letter.
When Penn Staters say they want the truth to come out, this is one of the things they are talking about. We want the media to report the truth, not make it up as they go along to fit their narrative or dumb it down to their readers.
I don’t trust Jodi Picoult’s books at all anymore. I don’t trust her to tell me the truth. In fact, just now, I looked up the spelling of the Oh Henry! candy bar, because she wrote it incorrectly a number of times in a single paragraph. How hard can it be to look up the spelling of a candy bar and make sure it is right? It is a little thing, a very tiny thing, but after a while, all of those little things erode the trust. When you are dealing with real life, you should present the facts truthfully. Anything else is fiction, very poorly written fiction.