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  • Title:

    Did Harvest House Use Professional Editorial Practices?

    Summary:

    Harvest House claimed to use “professional editorial standards” in the development and publishing of the Encyclopedia of Cults and New Religions. This article shows the emptiness of those claims.

    Did Harvest House Use Professional Editorial Practices?

    Claiming that it “adhered to professional editorial practices in the course of producing the Encyclopedia [of Cults and New Religions (ECNR)],” Harvest House said, “The Local Church. failed to acknowledge” three “facts.”1 However, we stand by our original statement:

    “Responsible Publishing”? Under oath, HH personnel admitted that no one at HH had read the book prior to publishing it,2 that they took no steps to check the facts or vet the book in any way,3 and that there were no editorial standards in place to verify its accuracy.4

    The Facts

    Let’s look at each of their alleged facts:

    1. Harvest House claims they “…hired an [out-of-house] editor familiar with the subject of comparative religions.”

      Fact: Harvest House knows their out-of-house editor was only asked to do a copy edit and was not knowledgeable about Living Stream Ministry or the local churches.

      The book’s editor, Charles Strohmer, received no instructions to and did not perform either a substantive edit or fact checking.5 According to the editor, his job was to copyedit the manuscript.6 According to his own notes which he sent to Harvest House, the editor’s understanding of his responsibilities were limited to such things as to “close up spaces, check for caps, check for small caps, . check biblical refs, check accuracy of dates, check spelling, universalize punctuation for quotes and extracts.”7

      Harvest House editorial director LaRae Weikert confirmed that Strohmer was only asked to do a copy edit.8 The Harvest House Style Guide for authors gives guidelines for comma usage, capitalization, etc., but Harvest House has produced no evidence that even these instructions were given to the book’s editor. According to Barbara Gordon, Harvest House project editor, “Copy editor isn’t in charge of content, per se. Copy editor doesn’t check — copy editor is still in charge of grammar and punctuation and spelling. Still in charge of the overall feel for the book, but doesn’t do any substantive or line-by-line editing.”9

      Charles Strohmer testified that he did not know about Living Stream Ministry and the local churches. When asked what he knew about the Local Church, he said, “Wow. Not a lot.”10 He said he had never heard of Living Stream Ministry and did not remember it being in ECNR.11

    2. Harvest House said, “Harvest House editor Barb Gordon, under oath, not only stated that she read a good portion of the book, but she ‘merged’ it (which means checking and compiling the two proofreaders’ corrections for the entire book), and also ‘helped cut some of the material because the book was too long.'” Gordon is elsewhere in the response referred to as Harvest House’s “in-house eyes.”

      Fact: Barbara Gordon did not read the entire book and what “reading” she did was not substantive editing, but was done in the course of merging proofreader corrections into the drafts and scanning the book galleys for typographic consistency.

      “A good portion” is not defined, but it definitely is not equivalent to reading the entire book. Whatever “reading” Gordon did was done in the course of merging proofreader corrections into drafts and had nothing to do with either substantive editing or fact checking.12 She stated categorically, “I wasn’t the substantive editor.”13 Her work in cutting the book dealt with some of the longer chapters and did not touch the sections of the book at the center of this litigation-the Introduction, Local Church chapter, or Doctrinal Appendix.14

      The term “in-house eyes” refers to Gordon’s role in performing a camera check of the galleys. As the Harvest House response itself says, this was to catch “formatting inconsistencies, punctuation, grammar, et cetera.” According to her testimony, during the camera checking phase of the Harvest House editorial process:

      “…we just sit down and read it — we don’t actually read it. We just glance at every page, check the top and the bottom lines to make sure that nothing is duplicated, look at running heads, page numbers, you know, general format; make sure the table of contents is accurate and go through it.”15

      Did she read it or not? Her answer is at best ambiguous, but what is clear is that she did not read it in its entirety or with a view to performing substantive editing16 or fact checking.17

    3. Harvest House attempts to discharge its editorial responsibilities by saying, “Two out-of-house proofreaders hired to work on the Encyclopedia already had ample experience working on Harvest House books and were familiar with Harvest House’s expectations and requirements for their role in the editorial process.”

      Fact: The proofreaders did not perform either substantive editing or fact checking.

      The out-of-house proofreaders knew that the “expectations and requirements for their role in the editorial process” do not include either substantive editing or fact checking. A proofreader’s role is limited to style issues-grammar, spelling, punctuation, etc.

    Conclusion

    The tasks of copy editing, merging, camera checking and proofreading did not address the problems in ECNR‘s tone, structure, factual accuracy, or substance. Harvest House’s response avoided the issue of “responsible publishing” raised in our statement of March 1918 and tried to misdirect attention from what are undeniable facts:

    1. No one at Harvest House read the entire book prior to publishing it.
    2. No one in Harvest House’s editorial process was tasked with performing either substantive editing or fact checking.
    3. Harvest House did not vet the book with an attorney even though the book itself acknowledges the potential for legal issues.

    Notes:

    1 “Harvest House and Authors Address Newest Allegations from The Local Church and Living Stream Ministry,” https://www.harvesthousepublishers.com/images/uploads/2004_04_05_HHP_Addresses_Newest_Allegations.pdf .

    2 Deposition of Robert Hawkins, Jr., September 25, 2003, p. 142.

    Deposition of Carolyn McCready, March 26, 2003, p. 58.

    Deposition of LaRae Weikert, August 20, 2003, p. 200.

    Deposition of Betty Fletcher, March 25, 2003, p. 81.

    3 Deposition of Betty Fletcher, March 25, 2003, p. 55.

    Deposition of LaRae Weikert, August 19, 2003, p. 44.

    4 Deposition of Carolyn McCready, March 26, 2003, p. 27.

    Deposition of Betty Fletcher, March 25, 2003, pp. 113-114.

    5 Deposition of Charles Strohmer, January 28, 2003, pp. 56, 112-113.

    6 Deposition of Charles Strohmer, January 28, 2003, pp. 65-66.

    7 Deposition of Charles Strohmer, January 28, 2003, pp. 19-20.

    8 Deposition of LaRae Weikert, August 19, 2003, p. 83.

    9 Deposition of Barbara Gordon, November 3, 2003, p. 5.

    10 Deposition of Charles Strohmer, January 28, 2003, p. 48.

    11 Deposition of Charles Strohmer, January 28, 2003, p. 47.

    12 Deposition of Barbara Gordon, November 3, 2003, pp. 12-13, 18.

    13 Deposition of Barbara Gordon, November 3, 2003, p. 24.

    14 Barbara Gordon explicitly stated that the Introduction, which has most of the complained of language, was not included in the material in which she considered making cuts, Deposition, November 3, 2003, p. 114.

    15 Deposition of Barbara Gordon, November 3, 2003, p. 13.

    16 Deposition of Barbara Gordon, November 3, 2003, p. 25.

    17 Deposition of Barbara Gordon, November 3, 2003, p. 44.

    18 “Living Stream Ministry and Local Churches Respond to Harvest House Corporate Statement on Recent Court Ruling,” March 19, 2004, response-to-harvest-house-corporate-statement-031804 [Note: This site has been discontinued. The same information is available on this site at: http://www.contendingforthefaith.org/libel-litigations/harvest-house-et-al/response.html]

    Categories:
    Articles, Defense, ECNR, Public Statements, Responses