Writers Should Have Ethics too by Christine Duncan


As writers, many of us learn that there are ways to sell things without an obvious ad. We are told to make our press releases on our books more than just “SO and So’s book, Blah Blah was released today.” If the press release is relevant to what is going on in the world, it could be picked up by reporters who want to use it as is. So if you have written a book with a character who is a drug user, and are a professional of some kind in drug treatment, you want to emphasize that in your press release. If perhaps there is some news at the same time about someone famous who is going into rehab, maybe if your press release is crafted right, it will earn a sidebar on the story, and readers will go on to remember your name and buy your book.

We all have heard of authors who have been paid for product placement too. Maybe they mention the hero always has a Bud in hand. It doesn’t happen every day, but we know it happens, It’s not news.

I’ve been reading financial articles lately as for the first time in many years, I am considering a retirement account again. And my background as a writer is making me suspicious of the “experts” who are writing the articles. Is it possible that some of this stuff is a press release from some bank?

Let me give you an example. One article I read just the other day, from a respected woman’s magazine, told the reader not to worry about paying off the house before retirement. The reason he gave was that medical bills could eat up a lot of money, so it was better for the money to be liquid. You don’t want to have to sell, he said. You can pay the mortgage with what you have saved for retirement.

I’ve been a bookkeeper many years and this makes no sense–let alone that if you spend your money on high medical bills, chances are, you will still have no money and have to sell the house. You’re going to hurt either which way unless Obama care is going to change the world.

But what he left out was this: Mortgages charge interest. And if you have done what all the experts advise, when you retire, you will have little money in stocks or any “volatile” investment that might perhaps take a dive that you don’t have time to recover from. You will have taken it out and put it in some CD’s or a money market where you will make (currently) 1% interest if you are lucky and have done great research on where to put it. The mortgage interest will be what…? 5% or more, perhaps. Right then and there you are losing the difference between what you are being paid and what you are paying.

Or to put that a different way, how much money would you have to have socked away at a 1% interest rate to pay the mortgage? If you have to come up with say, $1000.00 a month ($12,000 a year) how much money would the principle have to be to get that in interest? And if you eat away at the principle all you are doing is giving yourself an expiration date. As in, the money will be gone by the time I’m seventy-five and all I’ll have is social security if that is still going, so I’d better croak before then.

These are the kinds of things this guy left out of his retirement piece. As a matter of fact, he didn’t go into any retirement options that didn’t involve a bank, such as figuring out creative ways to lower bills or finding different ways to make money such as a paying hobby that you do into retirement.

Writers used to feel that they had to present a balanced piece that gave the reader information that he could then take away to use elsewhere. Lately, I’ve been wondering where that went. What happened to writing without a bias?


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