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AP Didn't "Purchase" Authorized Copy of Gabrielle Giffords' Book, Says Publisher

The publicist for Gabrielle Giffords' new book denies that the Associated Press bought an "advance" of the book legitimately for its November 4 preview article.

"Gabby: A Story of Courage and Hope," has been embargoed for release by retailers until November 15, and no advance copies were offered to anyone, says Brian Belfiglio of Scribner.

"We're uncertain how the AP obtained a copy of the book," Belfiglio tells New Times. "If it was a purchase, it certainly wasn't an authorized one."

We'd decided to make a few calls after reading the Espresso Pundit blog yesterday, in which blogger (and former Republican state lawmaker) Greg Patterson claims that AP either "stole" the book or bought a stolen copy. While we always appreciate a good scoop, (and the story itself was pretty good), the verbiage in the November 4 article states firmly that, "The Associated Press purchased an advance copy of the book, which is set for release Nov. 15." The article was picked up widely by online news outlets and Web sites worldwide.

First, we asked Traci Carl, the West regional editor of the local AP office if there was any truth to Patterson's screed.

"We purchased the book legitimately. Thanks for checking," Carl wrote back.

Gabrielle Giffords' office directed us to Belfiglio at Scribner, a division of Simon and Schuster, in New York City.

It seems to us that Scribner might have wanted to see a news outlet as big as AP do a small write-up for advance publicity, even if doing so might tick off other reporters. But Belfiglio, in throwing AP under the bus, says that's simply not the case. The sneak preview by AP caused some consternation at the publishing house, he says.

"Of course, a publisher never wants a news source to break our tightly controlled embargo," he says.

Now, we're not saying every "embargo" should be honored. Public relations folks often send us press releases that say the content is embargoed until a certain date, and the main reason we typically honor that request is because the material isn't really "news." To make this more clear: We would have written about Giffords' book if someone had sent us a copy, despite the wished-for embargo, because we live to serve our readers first and foremost.

So, in that sense -- good job, AP!

It appears that People magazine also received an early copy, judging by the magazine's promo. Maybe AP spoiled a deal that Scribner had with People.

Yet if the statements from both Belfiglio and Carl are both true, it sounds like AP's "purchase" may have involved cash and no receipt.

And if that were the case, "purchased an advance copy" might not have been the best choice of words.

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