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Angel at the Fence: The world was fooled, but how did it happen? January 7, 2009

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Herman Rosenblat, the author of Angel at the Fence, captivated millions of people with his tale of eventually marrying the girl who threw him food while he sat in a concentration camp during World War II.  His publisher, Berkley Books, however, canceled his memoir when the story was discovered to have been fabricated. Those duped included Oprah Winfrey, who told her audience that it was the greatest love story she covered in 22 years, along with numerous film producers, journalists, family members, and many others.

Why did Rosenblat feel it was necessary to sell the story as true? Megan Daum from the Los Angeles Times argued recently that some fictional tales may be good, but aren’t perceived as amazing – and profitable – until somebody says that they are also true.  Additionally, Daum suggested that the pressure to sell something as nonfiction may be the result of the American audience’s obsession for reality television, which kills creatively produced sitcoms.  Artists, then, are left thinking of alternative ways to sell their works.

For a full discussion of this recent scandal, see the following video:

Discussion Questions:

1.  How might advertisers and public relations specialists share some of the blame for Rosenblat’s story being sold as true?

2.  Was Rosenblat’s response to the crisis adequate?  How might he have responded in a more effective manner?

3.  Was Berkley Books’ response enough?  What else might the publisher do to prevent such a crises from reoccurring?

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