The lesson here is two-fold: Investigative reporting now makes use of Craigslist and ghostwriting academic term papers can get us axed from our day job.
A reporter for COMMONWEALTH Magazine, reports Kashmir Hill on Abovethelaw.com, put a help-wanted ad on Craigslist. The assignment was to ghostwrite an academic term paper on physician-assisted suicide for $300. Boston College Law JD Damian Bonazzoli, who was employed at the time as senior staff attorney for the Massachusetts Appeal Court, answered the ad. His day job paid him $94,000. The reporter was investigating, says Hill, the "shadowy underworld" of college papers for purchase.
When the reporter confronted Bonazzoli, the attorney answered that he did not perceive that he had broken any laws. He was wrong. In the state there is a 1972 statute regarding that. He's no longer in his day job.
What a can of worms has been opened about ghostwriting in general. Since 1979, I have made a nice living ghostwriting books, articles, opinion-editorials, testimony, and white papers for corporate executives and political leaders. Call me crass. But I can't see the difference between that, ethically or legally, and ghostwriting for other kinds of individuals. However, I have argued on my blogs that parents, professors, administrators and even student users of the service could create a class action lawsuit against the term paper mills. The complaint would be that students were denied the opportunity to develop critical thinking and communications skills.
Of course, the issue takes on a different dimension if the ghostwriter has a professional identity associated with the public good.
Those who view ghostwriting of student term papers as some kind of problem in education, the law, and ethics need to bring it to the level of debate. Perhaps California Democrat Harry Waxman can conduct hearings on it. I would welcome testifying. See, I'm as confused as everyone else.
Disclosure: I ghostwrote one student book review for $50. It turned my stomach to do it and took hours and hours, including reading the book. I never did that again. Yes, I did feel shame that I even performed this service once. Simultaneously I wondered if I was reacting like a capitalist virgin or super girl scout.