Sunday, May 08, 2011


BARony = BAR Irony. In the current issue (May/June 2011, vol. 37, #3) Hershel Shanks, the editor, appropriately accuses a popular demonic TV show of "unethical & irresponsible reporting." (Like as if it's a shocking revelation that liberal journalists lack objective standards.) He asked the show's demonic producers for an unpublished transcript of an Egyptian jeweler who allegedly forged artifacts for Oded Golan (p. 6 in his First Person editorial entitled "The Lion & the Flea", currently available online).

He at least received a reply from the demonic producers denying his request.

Ironically, on p. 12 of the same issue, the following request/denial appeared under the title "No Deal!":

"I would be pleased to make a generous donation after you publish my letter of November 30, 2010.
Richard C. Gern
St. Germain, Wisconsin

"Sorry. You cannot buy your way into our pages.--Ed."

So a couple of weeks ago I wrote to BAR, requesting Gern's letter (i.e., his "unpublished transcript"), offering to publish it for free online. After all, I understand the problem of not being able to publish every letter a magazine dept. receives in response to its content.

Although I hold out hope that I might eventually receive a courtesy reply at least acknowledging my request even if it is formally denied, I could no longer resist the urge to counter the editor's claim that people cannot buy their way into BAR, if for no other reason simply to inform potential advertisers who might want to boost BAR's budget.

I call as my first of three witnesses the same issue of Biblical Archaeology Review. Opposite the obituary of esteemed scholar (& LMLK VIP), Anson Rainey on p. 16 appears a half-page color ad for a lawn mower. My 2nd witness is a full-page color ad for a cell phone (p. 18). My 3rd witness is another full-page color ad for shoes (p. 21).

"One witness shall not rise up against a man for any iniquity, or for any sin, in any sin that he sinneth: at the mouth of two witnesses, or at the mouth of three witnesses, shall the matter be established."--Deuteronomy 19:15

For those not acquainted with the publishing industry, these types of non-Biblical, non-archeological advertisers regularly buy their way into every single issue of BAR. I know this firsthand, because in 2003 I bought my way into BAR, placing ads containing Biblical & archaeological content (p. 14 of vol. 29, #6; p. 62 of vol. 30, #1; you can see both plus a 3rd, unpublished one at LMLK dotcom).

So I'd like to now extend the offer to Richard Gern publicly, or if anybody knows him, I'd be glad to publish his letter for the benefit of those who are interested in what he wanted to say in BAR. It must've been important to him to have offered to pay for it to be published, & it must've been disturbing enough for BAR's editor to reject the donation. That makes me curious.

I suspect that Gern's proposed donation was substantially beneath the minimum level for small ads in BAR.

G.M. Grena


Todd Bolen said...


I think there's a difference between buying what is clearly an advertisement and what is editorial content. I think it is right of BAR to not allow those lines to be blurred. I also think it was quite mean-spirited to publish the second letter (undoubtedly without the writer's authorization).

G.M. Grena said...

Todd, I agree that there's a distinction between ads & editorials, but Mr. Shanks didn't say, "You can't buy your way into our editorial or featured-content sections!" I usually take people at their word, as literally as possible unless another context is obvious. I especially take the words of lawyers like Shanks literally, since the clever use of words is their specialty!

As for the blurring of those lines, that could be easily remedied by a single sentence: "The following writer paid for his letter to be published in this section." Problem solved. Win-win-win (for the publisher, writer, & readers). It certainly wouldn't cause any more "Cancel my subscription!" notifications than the anti-Biblical content already does, & it certainly wouldn't cause any scholars to unsubscribe since they don't rely on BAR for important information anyway (they have peer-reviewed journals). Besides, how many nutcases would be willing/able to pay for their letters to be published?

I can't imagine someone being upset with BAR for publishing an occasionally wacky letter, considering some of the wacky ads BAR has published in the past (and I don't mean to imply that Gern's letter was necessarily wacky since I have no idea what he wrote). Double standards irk me ( comes to mind).

A simpler alternative would be for BAR to publish on their website all the letters they receive. This would not necessarily be less lucrative for BAR since they already sell ads on their website, & the more content they publish, the more hits their site will get, & the longer their readers will stay, & the more often they'll visit. They could make a special section: Letters We Censored from Our Fine Magazine. Who could resist checking that out for its irony value?