The Onion publishes fake news stories, but it's sister pop culture news source The A.V. Club takes its audio-visual criticism seriously. It was, then, with much pain that editor Keith Phipps released an apology Dec. 9, announcing that one of its writers had published a fabricated review for Genious Imagined: The Life and Work of Alex Toth in the "Comics Panel" section of its website on Nov. 5--a book that even to date is not yet finished.
In the apology, Phipps wanted to assure everyone that the book's publisher, IDW, had no part in the review, and that the writer of the review would no longer be working with The A.V. Club.
"We've always asked you to trust us," Phipps added. "And we believe that one breach in ethics is all it takes to break that trust."
Leonard Pierce, a freelance writer with The A.V. Club for the past three years, admitted in a post on his blog to concocting the review, saying he had based it off of "secondary sources and second-hand information."
"That I had never done it before and will never do it again is meaningless," Pierce said in the post. "The fact is, I did it, and by doing so, I scuttled twenty-plus years of tireless work as a writer and did my reputation near-irreparable harm."
The fabrication was first brought to light in an online article in Comics Comics on the morning of Dec. 9. The article revealed that Pierce praised Genius Isolated for being "handsome" and "beautifully designed," as well as "much better written than such works" at a time when Dean Mullaney was (and still is) working on the book's final design, and Bruce Canwell was still researching the text.
When reached by Comics Comics, Mullaney felt surprise, then confusion after first reading the review. "I thought perhaps I was on Earth-Two, where the book had already been published," he said.
So, what grade did this unfinished, unread book merit? Apparently, the highest grade The A.V. Club has to offer: an A.