CRITICS-L: Censorship of TEXT editorial
Teun A. van Dijk
teun at let.uva.nl
Thu Sep 18 14:58:22 UTC 1997
CENSORSHIP OF *TEXT* EDITOR TEUN A. VAN DIJK
BY LINGUISTICS PUBLISHER MOUTON-DE GRUYTER
Because of a conflict with linguistics publisher Mouton-De Gruyter,
Founder-Editor Teun A. van Dijk and large part of the Board will
resign as from Volume 18 (1998).
To explain the circumstances that led to this decision, Van Dijk
wrote a farewell Editorial for the readers of TEXT, to be included in
the last issue under his editorship, viz., Vol. 17(4), 1997.
He invited Mouton director Dr. Anke Beck to write a rejoinder that
would give the point of view of the publisher. She replied however
that Mouton would not reply to the Editorial.
It soon became clear why!
Accompanying the proofs of Vol. 17(4) was a letter from Mouton-owner
De Gruyter, by CEO Dr. K. G. Cram, of September 8, 1997, which among
other things contained the following sentence:
"After having given it some thought, I do not feel that we are
bound to publish a text of this kind in our journal, and you
should not be too surprised not to find it in the proofs."
As an experienced editor and founder of several international
journals, Van Dijk was thus confronted --for the first time of his
life-- with an obvious case of censorship by a publisher. Editorial
independence, as also enshrined in the 1979 contract with Mouton,
apparently did not include possible critique of the publisher as an
explanation why he and the board suddenly had to resign.
Moreover, also in conflict with the contract, Mouton chief Dr. Anke
Beck in the meantime had appointed two new editors (Srikant Sarangi
and John Wilson) without consultation with the Editor and the Board.
The same day he received the letter, Van Dijk talked to Dr. Cram on
the phone, and explained the possible repercussions such a form of
censorship might have for the prestige of his company, as well as for
the future of TEXT, as soon as discourse analysts and linguists
around the world would hear of such a case on Internet.
To no avail. Dr. Cram, who also prevented Van Dijk and the Board to
go to another publisher when they were dissatisfied with De
Gruyter-Mouton's policies (as explained in the Editorial), would not
budge. As a 'compromise' he proposed that Van Dijk could have a brief
editorial that would contain the phrases dictated by Herr Cram.
To inform colleagues and students in discourse analysis, linguistics
and neighboring disciplines, the Editorial Dr. Cram was so afraid of
is included below. It explains why the Editor and most of the Board
members finally decided they had no other alternative but to leave.
In the meantime, Sage Publications (London) has just decided to
accept Van Dijk's proposal to start another general journal:
DISCOURSE STUDIES, Multidisciplinary Journal for the Study of Text
and Talk, to appear as from 1999, which will be announced on this
We trust that our colleagues in discourse analysis and linguistics
will make up their mind about this case of censorship, and take any
action they think is appropriate with regard to publishing or buying
Mouton-De Gruyter books, as well as contributing to, or reviewing for
TEXT, as long as Dr. Cram does not respect the freedom of editors and
world renowned board members of scholarly journals to publish what
they think is best for the readers, and as long as Van Dijk's
Editorial is not published in TEXT.
Comments and suggestions are welcome (teun at let.uva.nl)
Please forward this message to others who may be interested.
Text of the Editorial for TEXT by Teun A. van Dijk censored by
Publisher Mouton-De Gruyter.
This issue of TEXT is the last to appear under my editorial
responsibility: Most board members and I have resigned our positions
over a conflict with the publisher, Mouton-De Gruyter in Berlin. I
shall be brief about this conflict, whose major cause was Mouton-De
Gruyter's lack of serious investment in the promotion for our
journal. During its 16 year of the existence of TEXT, Mouton-De
Gruyter never produced attractive leaflets in order to publicize our
journal and to increase its number of subscribers. This is one of the
reasons why, despite the generally recognized quality of its
contributions, TEXT did not have many subscribers, and was not even
cited in the Social Science Citation Index. The other reason was the
exorbitant subscription rates of TEXT, which simply made it too
expensive for both individuals and institutions, thus further
limiting its accessibility to the community of discourse analysts.
Repeated editorial requests to remedy this situation unfortunately
did not lead to any improvement.
Faced with this situation, in which authors, board members and I did
our best to produce a good journal, whereas Mouton-De Gruyter in our
view failed to make TEXT broadly accessible and affordable, I decided
to look for a publisher that would do a better job. It appeared that
Sage Ltd. (London), an internationally renowned publisher of many
journals in the humanities and social sciences, was interested.
However, Mouton-de Gruyter, mindful of the easy (without-investment)
profit our journal generated for them, refused to sell, despite the
explicit wish of a large majority of board members, and despite the
generous price offered by Sage. As a consequence we lost confidence
in a publisher which, as we saw it, was more interested in profits
than in the opinion of many of the world's best discourse analysts
and in serving the academic community as well as it could.
Since I had good reasons to believe that Mouton-De Gruyter would not
seriously change its subscription and promotion policies, most board
and I finally decided to resign as off volume 18 (1998).
With Janos Petofi I founded TEXT in 1981, and I have been its only
editor since 1983. My decision to leave TEXT, therefore, was not easy
to make. However, as is the case for most board members, I did not
want to continue to invest much time and energy in a journal which,
due to the publisher's lack of commitment, would not optimally
function in the fascinating field of discourse studies. And since
Mouton-De Gruyter did not want to let us go with the journal that I
see as our intellectual property, we decided, with regret, to leave
TEXT behind, and to start a new journal with a publisher that would
take its task of promoting this new journal seriously. We thus hope
to be able to make a journal that is not only of outstanding quality,
and not only accessible and affordable by many readers, but which can
also guarantee its present and future authors that their
contributions will be widely read in many disciplines and in many
Teun A. van Dijk
Program of Discourse Studies
University of Amsterdam
teun at let.uva.nl
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