The Grey Area Around GhostwritingPosted by Antonia
A ghostwriter is a professional writer who is paid to write books, articles, stories, reports, or other texts that are officially credited to another person. They are often commissioned by celebrities, executives, and political leaders and their involvement can be as limited as proofing or editing to composing an entire work from scratch. Ghostwriters are not limited to writing text and are also commissioned to compose music under the same pretense. At first glance it would appear that ghostwriting is a perfectly legitimate profession: a professional writer is paid to write something. However ghostwriting also likens itself to a vestigal memory of a punishable academic pastime: paying someone to write an essay. How are these two things different other than the arena in which they find themselves? Here’s another scenario: Professional writer is paid to write an autobiography but then finds that much of the information that they are provided is false and maintains a hidden agenda? The professional writer then finds herself tangled in a personal or even legal mess. Is the writer liable for what is written, or does all credit (good and bad) go to the author whose name is written on the front cover? How about this: An individual purporting to be an expert of a given subject hires a ghostwriter because he in fact knows nothing about the subject at hand. This material is published and sold. And another: Someone badly wants to attend a highly ranked school but does not have the writing capabilities to adequately reflect what she would like in her application. The application requires essays to be written, and she pays someone to do them for her. As you can see, ghostwriting is not as straightforward as it seems and it lingers in an ambiguous environment of ethical dilemmas. Judging the ethics can only be done on a case by case basis. Richard Johannesen (or so we assume), wrote a book called Ethics in Human Communication. In it he outlines a few questions that can act as guidelines when determining whether or not a certain type of ghostwriting is ethical.
- What is the communicator’s intent and what is the audience’s degree of awareness?
- Does the communicator use ghostwriters to make herself/himself appear to possess personal qualities that she/he does not have?
- What are the surrounding circumstances of the communicator’s job that make ghostwriting a necessity?
- To what extent does the communicator actively participate in the writing of her/his own writing?
- Does the communicator accept responsibility for the message she/he presents?
So, when commissioning someone to do ghostwriting for your company’s social media outlets, marketing material, or deciding whether or not to accept a project, think about the ethics surrounding the situation and gauge the situation carefully. Later on, you certainly don’t want people to be pulling skeletons out from your closet.