Reactions to Ad Age Editor's Column Range From Condemnations to Kudos

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NEW YORK ( -- MediaWorks got an overwhelming response to Ad Age Editor Scott Donaton’s online-only column “Why Fooling Your Audience Is Never OK,” in which he said he believes both the Doubleday and Oprah Winfrey brands were tarnished by their association with author James Frey's book, “A Million Little Pieces.” The book, which Ms. Winfrey chose for her book club and which has sold more than 3.5 million copies, was billed as the “true” account of Mr. Frey’s addiction to drugs and alcohol and his recovery.

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Has Oprah tranished her credibility with her role in the 'Million Little Pieces' literary flap?

Original Story:
Oprah, Doubleday Are Tarnished by 'Million Little Pieces'

On Jan. 8, The Smoking Gun Web site published an expose revealing that many of the incidents Mr. Frey writes about were greatly exaggerated or had never happened, including a three-month jail sentence and a fight with a police officer. Some readers agreed that Ms. Winfrey and Doubleday should take responsibility for a misleading product, while others defended Mr. Frey’s right to tell his story his own way, real or not.

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I just finished reading your article "Why Fooling Your Audience is Never OK," and I want to thank you for sticking up for honesty in the marketplace. While the ad business is ultimately about presentation of a product to consumers, it's nice to see that some of us are not alone in believing that truth is still the most powerful motivator, and should be protected as such. What our parents told us about honesty being the best policy is as true now as it has ever been, perhaps even more so now in this age of ratings-based journalism.

John Wilkinson
Account Executive
Russ Reid Company
Glendale, Calif.

Do your research. To describe Frey's book as a “fictionalized life story” is so entirely off base. Are you sure you read the novel? Have you been watching the news? Have you been on The Smoking Gun's site? There is no apology necessary. Not for Oprah and not for Random House. The only apology necessary is one made by you to your readers for continuing to misdiagnose this entire situation.

Jesse Heller
National Advertising Coordinator
Landon Media Group
Los Angeles

Thank you so much for your column on Oprah’s reaction to James Frey’s lies in his “memoir.” You really hit the nail on the head. It is depressing to see that in our country, brands and money win out over integrity. I only wish I had known all this before I spent more money on Frey’s next book, “My Friend Leonard,” which I read and suspect

'A Million Little Pieces,' continues to spark debate across the country.

is also largely made up. I will certainly think twice before reading anything Oprah has endorsed ,and that truly is a shame.

Beth McRae
The McRae Agency
Scottsdale, Ariz.

One could argue that the decision to categorize the book as non-fiction is akin to promoting high-calorie snack foods as “fat free.” I would go along with that (although the food packaging would have the calorie count on the side of the package for those who wanted to find it, so it is different) but not as a way of excusing Frey. Rather, I would argue that both are abhorrent examples of false marketing.

Mark Gleason
What’s Next Media
South Orange, N.J.

I completely agree. The best way to have REALLY killed any bad press would have been to address it head-on, apologize and move on. What makes Oprah so likeable by her viewers is that despite being absurdly wealthy, she still seems like a fairly normal person. Normal people occasionally get duped. Normal people, especially likeable ones, garner even more sympathy and loyalty from their friends when someone pulls a fast one on them. That would have been a far smarter route for her. My wife (a regular viewer of Oprah) thinks that she blew it in how she’s addressed it -- and I know she’s not the only one. Hopefully she learns a quick lesson from her viewers.

Tony May
Mayday Media

Is it really that big of a deal? There are probably a lot of memoirs written that are not 100% or 80% true. It isn't presidential memoir or about an event in history that affected us all. I enjoyed the book a lot, and began reading it before Oprah recommended it and I have since had several others read it. No regrets.

Robin Washington
Travel Advertising Manager
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

I am planning to take my as yet unread copy of “A Million Little Pieces” back to the Barnes and Noble where I bought it. I still have the receipt. Wish me luck.

Your article was a solid, insightful synopsis of this literary soap-Oprah.

Diana Stewart
Get Your Words' Worth
Montclair, N.J.

You are absolutely right about the Oprah/James Frey episode and I've been utterly baffled that so many people -- especially people in the media who should know better -- have missed the point.

Eric Woolson
The Concept Works
West Des Moines, Iowa

No one has expressed as well as you the core issues that are most troubling about this fiasco. I was far less disturbed by Mr. Frey's weak self-defense than by Oprah Winfrey's rush to support him, as she praised the underlying redemptive elements of the book. Like you, I bought the book and bought copies for others. Then I felt a need to make calls to the recipients to tell them that I may not have done them a favor. There seems to be general agreement among the most knowledgeable that absolute honesty is a key aspect to recovery from any addiction. The greatest irony of all comes in Mr. Frey's own words in the book: "The truth is what matters," he wrote. "It is what I should be remembered by, if I am remembered at all. Remember the truth. It is all that matters."

John J. Sullivan

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