By letterhead | September 25, 2008
One of the more popular posts on this site is one I put up on ghost writing ethics. It’s still getting lots of regular hits even after several months.
But yesterday I saw a posting on Salon about a squirrelly little ghost writing project by the McCain campaign. And I was actually kind of stumped as to whether it’s unethical, or just one of those things that feels totally wrong, but isn’t technically unethical.
It goes like this:
an intern writes a “letter to the editor” in whatever assumed identity she wants
she makes up all the details, none of which are true… for her
the details would technically be “lies” if the letter was signed either by her or with a fictitious name
But here is the squirrelly bit:
the campaign shows these letters to actual real people, and if the letter sounds like something they would have written themselves, then they sign it and send it in
[the article does not say whether any incorrect details are corrected to reflect the truth of the new "author"]
but in fact, there is now a real person willing to put his or her name to a piece of fiction, to drag it back into the realm of “truth”
So, my dear friends in PR land… assuming that all the “facts” square with the “author’s” reality, is this ethical?
My gut reaction is that as long as the person is real and there are no lies in it, relative to the real life of the signed author, then it’s not unethical.
Squirrelly? Yes. Cheap? Yes.
But technically unethical? No.
And you would say… ???