Monday, April 14, 2008

Mea Culpa Monday: the Lonely Planet gets nowhere fast edition

By Joe Uchill
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If you didn’t do research on a country you didn’t visit, you are as qualified to write travel guides for Lonely Planet as presumably-former staffer Thomas Kohnstamm. Kohnstamm’s upcoming book Do Travel Writer’s Go To Hell acknowledges his career of plagiarizing other sources, fabricating information, accepting gifts in violation of policy and (in one case) not visiting the country while writing more than a dozen such books for the company.

Upon hearing the news yesterday, Lonely Planet was quick to respond. Their position? The man claiming to have mischievously conned publishers into publishing his lies is currently conning a book publisher into publishing, well, publishing that lie.

Lonely Planet is reviewing the books that author  Thomas Kohnstamm to which contributed but has so far found nothing inaccurate, said Piers Pickard, Lonely Planet's guide book publisher. .. “Thomas' claims are not an accurate reflection of how our authors work," Pickard told The Associated Press.

Via a company newsgroup, Kohnstamm told Lonely Planet that they didn’t pay enough for him to do the things he was supposed to do. He contends that when writing about Colombia, his travel plans took him as far as San Francisco, where he penned the book based on conversations with an intern for the Colombian consulate that he was dating.

It may not be as salacious as it sounds. Packard points out that Kohnstamm only wrote about the history of Colombia – reviewing accommodations in the country was farmed to two other writers. Still, pillow talk with consulate interns is presumably not the most unbiased or accurate source for historical facts. 

I’ve never visited Colombia.  Are they hiring? I can grind something out in, like, 14 hours.

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