Edgar Judge Breaks Confidentiality

Tony Fennelly, one of the Edgar judges in the Best Paperback Original committee, has gone on DorothyL, a discussion group of mystery fans and writers, to air her displeasure about the committee’s choice for the Edgar. She also talks about some of the deliberations (without naming the specific judges she disagreed with). This is the second year in a row that a judge has violated the confidentiality rules that govern Edgar judging and gone public with details about committee deliberations (Hal Glatzer did it last year in far more detail).  This outrageously unprofessional behavior infuriates me. Judges go into the Edgar process knowing from the outset what the rules are and agree to them. Fennelly and Glatzer’s wrong-headed conduct reflects badly on the MWA, the Edgars, their fellow judges, and the award winners. I think it’s time that the MWA consider adopting disciplinary actions against members who violate the confidentiality of Edgar judging. What’s your view?

12 thoughts on “Edgar Judge Breaks Confidentiality”

  1. I’m arguing with Hal in email as we speak–I think his proposal for “Edgar metrics” is stupid–but I dunno. Disciplinary actions? Like what?
    What could we do that would be worse than the loss of respect of your peers?

  2. I’m not a member of the MWA, nor am I privy to all their rules. However, if indeed Edgar judges are required to agree not to disclose the details of the judging process (and I have to assume they are, since it’s a good rule), these folks should be disciplined for breaking confidentiality. At the least, they should be barred from ever serving on an Edgar jury again. Unless they issue public apologies, I’d boot ’em from the whole group.
    This kind of self-serving behavior damages the Edgars, which could be potentially ruinous to the MWA. The public face of the MWA is the Edgars. As far as the book-buying public goes, the awards are the most important things they do. If the Edgars are tarnished or diminished, the results could be significant.

  3. I wholeheartedly agree there should be serious consequences for judges who break confidentiality rules. Perhaps strip them of their right to vote on MWA matters, which all active members have? Barring the offender from Edgar consideration for 1-2 years?
    Active membership is what we give our members who have achieved a certain level of success as professionals. In day-to-day life, if we violate those silly regulations we call “laws,” there’s usually a monetary penalty involved or loss of freedom or loss of some basic right. Would it not stand to reason that those who abuse the roles given them in the MWA also pay some sort of penalty?
    Don’t get me wrong. I don’t believe the MWA should levy fines. We’re not the NFL. But active membership, which you have to work for and once you have it, you keep it, should be put on the line. Take away that writer’s active membership for a set amount of time or until such time as they can earn it back.
    The reason people violate the confidentiality rules is there are no consequences. Would someone be so quick to embarrass the organization if they had to face the music?

  4. I work in a field were NDA’s and metrics are a big deal and a big part of our business so to me this seems like a non-issue. Anyone who signs a NDA or anything similiar should be expected to abide by it or suffer the consequences. I don’t think being kicked out of MWA makes sense but I do think that they should be publically asked to apologize and not allowed to serve on the committee again in the future. As far as the act itself, I think it is cheap, it takes away from the winners and from the process as a whole. If Tony / whomever disagreed with the other people on the committee, she should have used her voice more to change minds. If she can’t be persuasive she has to take the results that are garnered and keep her mouth shut. Bluntly, your time to speak out ended when they gave out the award.

  5. Having been part of an Edgar committee… I really can’t think of how disciplinary action could be taken without adding a fatal amount of red tape to the whole process.
    You’d need an ethics committee, you’d need to get people to agree on how the ethics committee would be appointed/elected/anointed…
    You’d also have yet another obstacle to finding enough people for a committee. Contrary to what the rest of the world may think, it’s a lot of work for very little reward and no glory. Add NDAs and ridiculous ‘metrics” to the equation and it looks even less appealing.
    The system’s not broken. Leave it alone and speak out against unethical behavior. Just like you’re doing.

  6. Exactly.
    One of the nice things about not having a book out for the last couple of years is everybody’s forgotten to target me for committees.

  7. They say that being nominated is in itself an honor. Tony took part in the nominating process but the majority ruled a different way for the final outcome. Can’t she be pleased with her part? Does she have to “win” even if its being the judge?

  8. I am also not a member of MWA, nor am I a published crime fiction writer, but every professional organization I’ve ever belonged to has in place a grievance procedure. While it does consists of committee investigation, it need not be mired in red tape (although committees tend to take on the characteristics of the parent group, which may be what Keith refers to). It seems to me that jurors airing dirty laundry and violating non-disclosures are now chronic in nature and perhaps result from conflicting interests (Hell, Tony Fennelly has received more ink in the last 72 hours than in the ten years previous. Her books never created such discussion) and this cries out for some kind of disciplinary action on the part of MWA. Just my .02 worth.


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