“Go Set a Watchman: Ethical Considerations”
Like any other conventional publisher, we have this intrinsic desire that drives us to want to publish any manuscript that comes to my table promising such exceptional sales.The question as to whether to publish “Go Set a Watchman” by Harper Lee, brings to mind the need to make a decision that will impact on many people.The fact that the author of the manuscript is a onetime best seller of the novel “To Kill a Mocking Bird” makes this potential novel a contemporary best seller despite being penned more than 50 years ago.However, the decision to publish it is wrought with the potential of conflict between right as in doing the right thing versus infringing on individual rights.In view of the prevailing circumstances, publishing the manuscript will be the most viable option among the potentials that the house has to choose from.This will only be after consideration of the presented facts regarding the said manuscript.Facts which, from their presentation, offer a basis for informed decision making.
The development and presentation of the manuscript involves facts which are mainly shadowy, with conflicting reports about its origin and issuance.Most of the information collected about the manuscript has been based on reports by the author’s Attorney, Ms.Carter.In recent times, Ms.Lee has been mostly infirm due to a stroke that she had in 2007.She is deaf and blind and possibly with a reduced mental capacity.On the other hand, reports by Professor Wayne Flynt of Auburn university show that the author is of sound mind and also quite lucid in enhancing her ideas and opinions.This creates a conflicting image of the author as an incapacitated infirm versus a sound minded and articulate individual.Based on the argument that the author is unable to clearly articulate her opinions due to mental incapacitation as well as on the fact that she has been quite forgetful, claims have been made that Ms.Carter is manipulating Ms.Lee for her personal gains.Without clear evidence to the same or otherwise, it is difficult to conclude effectively on what the truth could be.
Besides the person of the author, the manuscript itself also proves to be of questionable origin and development.Carter asserts that the manuscript is a sequel to the much hyped “To Kill a Mocking Bird”.However, information has been found from the records made by Lee’s first agent, Laurie Williams that the first copy of a novel by the name “Go Set a Watchman” was submitted prior to the publication of the first novel by Lee.This could imply that the found manuscript could actually be the same manuscript, on which Lee worked to produce the first novel.Its publication would thus lead to the sale of a novel similar in most ways to the first one.It is thus important that this manuscript be scrutinized closely prior to its publication.
If published, the novel will have impacts on the lives of various stake holders.As a publisher, the interests of the reading population affect my decisions to a great extent.This means that as much as I need a profitable business, I can only take on something that will impact the publisher’s image positively.No publisher would want high sales on a single book followed by a dip in its sales due to tainted image.As it is now, the public is closely following this saga and by the end of the day, it is the author, the readers, the publisher and the legal representative who will be impacted most.The options available to us as the publishers are to publish the book based on the available information and to avoid or postpone the publication until all unclear details have been verified.The former is feasible, both financially and ethically, while the latter presents a great challenge in that the author herself is unavailable to provide the required information as she only speaksthrough her legal representative.She also has no close relations who can speak on her behalf and the distant ones cannot be easily traced.Consequently, the publisherhas decided to publish themanuscript following intensive editing and on condition that the manuscript is confirmed to be different from the previous novel, “To Kill a Mocking Bird.”
The decision has been made after consideration of several factors.First, publishing the manuscript would offer the greatest benefits for the highest number of people.The author of the novel must have the copyright to the novel on its publication.This will make it impractical and a criminal offence to deny her any fiscal claims on the book sales thus she will benefit financially.Secondly, in the absence of any close relations of the author, the legal representative also gains financially without causing harm to the author’s reputation.The publisher gains through the book’s profitability while the readers get to quench their thirst for something new from the author.Secondly, publishing the book does not infringe on the individual rights of the author unless she is denied the copyright.Also, if the novel is good enough, the characters of the author, her legal representative as well as that of the publisher will be receive a higher esteem.This would also work in the contemporary world based on the already projected high sales pre-publication.The decision to publish is thus ethical as well as founded on informed basis. It can therefore be said that the act of publishing the novel would be right based on the four frameworks set by Badaracco for decision making. It can thereby be considered ethically acceptable.
Moreover, any act can only be considered ethically wrong based on two reasons i.e.whether the act itself is wrong and whether it does not offer greatest good for the greatest number of people (King 220). According to the deontological ethical theories, an action can only be regarded as wrong if the action itself is wrong (King 221). Publishing a manuscript can only be considered as wrong based on the content of the manuscript is unacceptable. In this case, this would be if the manuscript either contains content that does not resonate to the author’s image or to the readers’ expectations, or if the manuscript is a repeat of an already published book. Publishing the manuscript would thus only be wrong if the content is similar to “To Kill a Mocking Bird”. Also, since it would publishing the manuscript would result in the satisfaction of more people, it cannot be considered unethical. It would thus be conclusive to say that publishing the manuscript is optimally ethical as long as the content is right and the copyright belongs to the original author.
King, Lain.How to make good decisions and be right all the time.Continuum. 2008.