publishing

Business and Creativity: Cautionary Tales

When I worked as a music writer, one of the most fascinating things about the job was getting to see the business side of the music industry. While I met many people who genuinely believed in their company’s artists and did all they could to support them, I also regularly saw musicians and creative people get exploited. Even as a lifelong music fan, the scope and extent of this exploitation was a shock to me. Many artists’ contracts were astoundingly one-sided – and not in the artist’s favour –  and it was very easy for artists to quickly get into financial trouble, even if they were successful and smart.

Those experiences left a lasting impression on me. During the contract negotiations for the first edition of my textbook, I asked questions that my publisher’s representative later told me he had never had an author ask before. I had to explain to him that after seeing things like all the “recoupable expenses” that record companies routinely deducted from artists’ earnings, I wanted to be absolutely sure of what kind of contract I was getting into. And I also wanted to have at least some chance to make money from my work.

I don’t hold any illusions that things have gotten any better for artists in the years since I wrote about music. Taylor Swift recently got a lot of attention for boycotting Apple’s new music streaming service when she found out it wasn’t going to pay artists during its first three months of operation. Good for her for speaking up  – but there’s many, many other creative people who get ripped off and who don’t have the public profile or commercial power to demand fair treatment. Here’s two examples I recently encountered. (more…)

Evaluating Historical Research in Business

I started doing research in organizational and business history for no other reason than I like to try to figure out why things are the way they are. I have no formal training in historical research – I’ve learned what I’ve learned mostly from experience, and from very helpful suggestions from more experienced researchers along the way. But I’m also working within an academic discipline that doesn’t have a strong record of historical research, and that only considers certain kinds of historical research to be legitimate or worthwhile.

That background made me very interested in Jeffrey Smith’s recent article “Writing Media History Articles: Manuscript Standards and Scholarly Objectives”, which was published in Journalism and Mass Communication Quarterly. While Smith is specifically discussing research in media history, I found that a lot of the issues he discusses in the article are true for research in business history as well. And many of the issues he identifies resonated with my own experiences of trying to get research in business history published in academic journals. (more…)

My New Book

I’m very pleased to announce that the 4th edition of my textbook Industrial Relations in Canada, published by John Wiley and Sons Canada, is now (more…)

Predatory Journals: An Experiment

In my occupation, tenure and promotion are big deals. University professors who want to get tenure or be promoted are usually expected not only to conduct research, but also to publish that research in academic journals. And in the last decade or so, the traditional model of academic journal publishing has been disrupted by the emergence of online-only journals and by open access journals.

This disruption has resulted in some good changes. It has led to alternatives to the process of anonymous peer review of journal submissions – a process which is supposed to be objective, but often isn’t. It can shorten the often lengthy time between the submission of a manuscript and the publication of the finished article. And it has also provided wider access to information that might formerly have been subscription-only or password-protected.

But the disruption has also led to the rise of so-called “predatory journals”. These are primarily online journals which have little or no academic legitimacy. They exist solely to make money for their owners, and they make that money by charging excessive “article processing fees”. Unfortunately, these journals prey on vulnerable researchers. That includes researchers who are desperate for publications to put on their resumes; researchers who are not confident in their writing ability; and researchers who can’t identify journals where a publication will hurt, not help, their careers. (Jeffrey Beall, who blogs about predatory journals, has an excellent list of criteria that he uses to define a predatory journal; you can find the list here.)

Predatory journals regularly send out spam emails soliciting manuscripts. I receive at least three of these emails every week. Other than being annoyed by the spam, I had never really thought too much about how these journals work. But at the end of last year, two astounding stories made the rounds. One was about a predatory journal accepting a manuscript that consisted of nothing but the words “Get me off your f***ing mailing list”. The other was about a predatory journal accepting a manuscript of computer-generated nonsense that was allegedly co-authored by two characters from The Simpsons.

These stories blew me away. How could this happen? Wouldn’t disrespectable journals at least try to appear legitimate by rejecting blatantly fake papers? How could even a disrespectable journal miss such obvious signs of fakery? So I decided to conduct an experiment of my own.

The outcome: Two journals accepted a manuscript for publication that was not only nonsense, but also plagiarized nonsense.

Here’s how it happened.

(more…)

TIPPING POINTS? MALCOLM GLADWELL COULD USE A FEW

An excellent investigation of Malcolm Gladwell‘s questionable use of uncredited secondary sources. Here’s some of my earlier posts on other problems with Gladwell’s work:

Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000 Hour Rule Doesn’t Add Up

Malcolm Gladwell’s Weak Defense of the 10,000 Hour Rule

Who’s David, and Who’s Goliath?: Malcolm Gladwell and His Critics

Malcolm Gladwell and His Critics, Round Two

 

Our Bad Media

In the summer of 2012, just days before a certain columnist was found to have plagiarized from The New Yorker, a staff writer at the prominent magazine itself resigned in the wake of a widespread plagiarism scandal. The journalist, famous for pop-science works that generated scathing reviews, had been using unattributed quotations taken from other people’s interviews. He had copied-and-pasted from his peers. Generally, he had faked his credentials as an original researcher and thinker.

The New Yorker itself had a doozy on its hands. The scandal had tarred the magazine’s famed fact-checking department, despite claims that its procedure was “geared toward print, not the Web.” Editor-in-chief David Remnick was embarrassed. He’d initially kept the writer on board, distinguishing one bout of self-plagiarism from the more serious offense of “appropriating other people’s work.” Now, his magazine was losing a star that had been groomed as “Malcolm Gladwell 2.0.”

That…

View original post 2,608 more words

Investigative Journalism: The Media Can (and Should) Do More of It

Recently I wrote a post about new information on the anti-union financial disclosure bill being debated in Canada’s Parliament. This new information was collected by two University of Regina researchers, and was mostly collected from publicly available documents. I also recently watched this segment of the Last Week Tonight with John Oliver TV show – a segment that brilliantly dismantles the Miss America Pageant’s claim to be “the world’s largest provider of scholarships to women in the world” [sic]. The information for this segment was also collected from publicly available documents.

Now admittedly the Miss America Pageant’s misrepresenting its scholarship awards doesn’t have the same potential large-scale societal impact as federal legislation, but the reporting of both sets of information has something in common. They’re both good investigative journalism – and neither was done by journalists. (One commentator calls Oliver’s work “investigative comedy”.) So why are comedians and university professors doing the kind of investigative work that media organizations should be doing, but generally aren’t?

From my own experience, I can suggest a couple of reasons why investigative journalism is not (more…)

The Return of Jonah Lehrer

When we last heard about writer Jonah Lehrer – whose career self-destructed after his writing was found to have numerous instances of plagiarism and factual inaccuracies – he had been paid $20,000 to give a much-criticized speech about journalistic ethics. A few months after that, he was reported to be circulating a book proposal – which also allegedly included plagiarized content. Then….nothing.

And now, very quietly, he’s back.

At the end of March, (more…)

Some Thoughts on Orly Lobel’s “Talent Wants to Be Free”

I had the pleasure of meeting Orly Lobel this past September at the Employment and Labor Law Colloquium at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. As it happened, the colloquium was held just a few days before Orly’s book, Talent Wants to Be Free: Why We Should Learn to Love Leaks, Raids, and Free Riding, was officially published. At the colloquium, Orly gave a brief talk about the themes of the book , and I was so intrigued by what she discussed that I bought the book as soon as it was available here.

I was hoping to have posted something sooner about Talent Wants to be Free. But the book was so thought-provoking for me that I ended up reading a part of it, putting it aside to think about what I had read, and then reading some more. So it took me a while to get through the entire book – but that’s an indication of how much valuable information there is in it, and how smartly it’s written.

(more…)

How the Media Isolate Academics: A Response to Nicholas Kristof

Nicholas Kristof usually produces thoughtful and insightful commentary in his columns in the New York Times. However, his recent article entitled “Professors, We Need You!” was such a lazy piece of writing that I found myself wondering whether his byline had been stuck on the column by mistake. The article trotted out very broad and very tired stereotypes of academic disciplines being too isolated from reality, and academics themselves being too wrapped up in their own self-serving work to engage with society or with the public.

Other blogging academics such as the political scientists at The Monkey Cage, the administrator at Confessions of a Community College Dean, and the scientist at Doing Good Science have already dissected the errors in Kristof’s article, along with pointing out the article’s failure to mention the structural, occupational and institutional factors creating the kind of academic work that Kristof denigrates. However, what I want to discuss is (more…)

Some Thoughts on Sutton and Rao’s “Scaling Up Excellence”

I’ve written before about my general cynicism toward most business books. But one business book that I greatly admire – not only for its eye-catching title, but also for its sensible and forthright attitude – is Bob Sutton’s The No-Asshole Rule, which should be required reading for anyone involved in any aspect of hiring. Recently Bob offered “active influencers” preview copies of Scaling Up Excellence, the new book he has co-authored with his colleague Huggy Rao. When I saw the offer on Twitter, I thought, (more…)