Wednesday, January 2, 2013

new of the news, supplemental

I should have included this one in yesterday's roundup, because as a separate post it's going to be frustratingly incomplete.

Occasionally over the years I've been contacted by reporters working on feature articles about Tolkien, and sometimes quoted in same, with mixed results. A good description of what this kind of experience feels like may be found in this recent account by my fellow scholar Jason Fisher of his own experiences as a journalistic source. Reading the Christian Science Monitor piece that Jason was quoted in caused me to give thanks that at least I was well out of that one, but I spoke too soon.

In mid-December I was phoned by a reporter for the Lexington Herald-Leader who was writing a feature article, tied to the Hobbit movie, about the longstanding rumor that Kentucky country folks inspired Tolkien's hobbits. Some other Tolkienist had told the reporter that I'd once written an article titled "Hobbit Names Aren't From Kentucky", so he asked me to elaborate on it. I did, and then I followed my previous practice and sent him an e-mail summarizing what I'd said so that he might have something other than his notes from the phone call to quote from.

But when the article appeared, a couple days after Christmas (it might have been copied by other McClatchy/Knight-Ridder papers as well), I winced to read it. It's not really the reporter's fault - he was just trying to get up to speed on a subject he knew nothing about - but the whole thing, and my participation in particular, came out appearing so inane and trivial, and concluding with a glaringly inaccurate fact, stated as a quote from me,* that I'm not even going to link to it. I didn't feel I should leave it unmentioned, but my hope is that you won't consider it worth the trouble of looking for, because it really isn't. So pooh.

*Well, at least I'll tell you what the error was, in hopes that will assuage any remaining curiosity. The reporter told me that folks in the relevant part of Kentucky believe that Tolkien once came and visited there. I was able to confirm that this was not the case and that Tolkien never visited the U.S. Although he was invited a couple times, I added, mentioning an invitation from Marquette University in Wisconsin, which bought his papers, in particular. Thanks, I'm sure, to the incompleteness of the reporter's notes, this locale got transmuted into the University of Wisconsin in the quote from me. Aargh.

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