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Monday, November 20, 2006

Filtered OJ

We interrupt this series of compensation blog postings for a word about filters.

Since the One Company announcement much has been said about our publishing filter, which is just another way of saying our publishing standards. As is typical with 650 people, some of you think its too restrictive, some think its just about right, and a lot of you don't care one way or the other. Over the weekend I had very little down time or TV time, but in the scant minutes I was around a television I heard about the new O.J. Simpson book every time the set was on. For those of you out of the house or in a cave over the weekend, this book is about how he would have murdered his wife if he had committed the murders. His publisher was quoted in the Tennesseean last week as saying, "I regard this has his confession". NBC news reported that his advance for the book was in the neighborhood of $2.5 million.

There has been an overwhelmingly negative response to the book, and to its publisher Judith Regan at Reganbooks. I mentioned this to my wife, who knew the name and said, "Oh yeah, that's not the first trash she's published". So, being curious, I looked up the Reganbooks web site. There you'll find banner or feature ads for such prestigious and uplifting titles as "How to Make Love Like a Porn Star" by porn star Jenna Jameson, "How to Make Money Like a Porn Star" by Rolling Stones writing Neil Strauss, and "The Confession", former New Jersey Governor James McGreevey's apologetics about leaving both his office and his wife after a gay affair with a subordinate became public. Reganbooks is an example of what a publisher becomes when they don't have adequate publishing standards.

So why do I care about this as subject matter for an HR blog? Well, how would you feel about Thomas Nelson if we published any of the books mentioned above? The content coming out of our company is synonymous with our corporate identity. Who we are, and how you feel about it as a staff member of the company, goes a long way towards your satisfaction in the job. Without a filter for content decency we potentially fall prey to a great sales pitch for a bad drop-in title, especially if we're behind budget at the time. If you think it can't happen, stop and think of some of the books we've published that you've found offensive and you'll know that it already has happened in the past.

During my first week on the job a staff member, who is now in our leadership team, stopped me outside my office and said, "When you've had some time and learn this place a little better, I want you to come back to me and answer this question: are we a Christian company or just a corporation that traffics in Christian products?" That question, in one form or another, has been asked of me for most of the almost six years I've been with this company. One Company and the publishing filter have settled that question and as its implemented we will as a corporate culture be better off for it.

As always, I welcome comments both in agreement and in dissent.


1 comment:

Darcie Clemen said...

Good thoughts, Jim. I would go one step further on the question asked by the staff member and say that I hope we are striving to be a successful publishing company run by authentic Christians. Placing "Christian" in front of anything as an adjective tends to illicit negative responses, understandably, as it brings to mind the subculture most of us have probably helped build at one time or another. That is why I was encouraged to hear of the renewed filter/vision for Thomas Nelson. The world does not need more Christian books, bookstores, t-shirts, mugs, etc... it needs more committed Christians who are passionate about recapturing the arts, literature, and business for the glory of God. I believe the filter will help us do that. Now personally, I hope that within the context of the filter we will make it a priority to seek out and develop a higher percentage of talented writers (crafters of language and those committed to the quality of their message as well as the content) versus ghost writers behind big names. Although I do not belittle the business savvy in those transactions, I would ask the question: who better than God's people to pave the way in making a darn good living at darn good books? Our faith should be bigger than a label, bigger than the foreseeable reaches of any one department of Thomas Nelson. In my opinion, the filter is helping us get there.