Commentary

Business Publication Editors Strive for Updated Editorial Ethics

Business Publication Editors Strive for Updated Editorial Ethics

Robin Sherman, Associate Director, Newsletter Editor for the American Society of Business Publication Editors, recently reported on a new study from the ASBPE examining the attitudes and behavior surrounding editorial ethics. Included here are excerpts from Sherman’s report.

  • 92% of respondents said it is important for an organization or a magazine to have a code
  • 59% felt that editorial codes of ethics were in place at their magazine or their organization
  • Of those 59%, 37% said the codes were formal (officially adopted)
  • 42% said they were informal, defined as an “ethical editorial environment” in which no code had been officially adopted.

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Roy Harris, senior editor of CFO magazine, said “Our study reflects ASBPE’s need to base the revision of our own code on the needs that our members see. The current media environment invited a survey, too, with new controversy raging over product placement by advertisers and over activities among journalists at reputable news organizations that are questionable at best.”

Responses came from157 magazines of 360 B2B magazines that have ASBPE members, considered to be a very high response rate.

  • 83% of respondents felt that the code should offer both a general statement of principles and provide guidelines on accepting gifts from sources or advertisers.
  • 64% of respondents whose company has a formal editorial code of ethics said that their company or organization backs them up and buys into the code.
  • 53% of editors whose publications lack a code, said their company buys into the ethical editorial environment.
  • 76% of members, who responded to a similar survey two years ago, said they faced ad-related editorial demands, and 30% said they succumbed.
  • 85% of respondents said that their magazine or company/organization does not officially publish the code of ethics.
  • 70% of respondents from magazines with a code said that either there are no consequences when it is violated, or that they don’t know of any consequences.

Responses suggested certain provisions that ought to be in a code or guideline, and indicated that publishing the code to make it available to staffers and readers must be considered, reports Sherman. The recommendations included:

  • The code must make clear that … reporting, writing, editing and presenting information … is not created or adapted to conform to the needs of advertisers, the predilections of publishers, or, in fact, the arbitrary whims of editors.
  • Clarification for readers of what is paid content and what is editorial content.
  • Statement that the publication pays all expenses— not advertisers or sources.
  • Rules about treatment of sources, confidential materials, unnamed sources.
  • Editors should have the final say in what gets printed.
  • A clear position on employees' accepting outside work — freelance assignments or part-time teaching, for example. Clear direction regarding employees' political activities and expressions of opinion in blogs, columns, …
  • The role of the editor on sales calls.
To read the complete report and gain more information, please visit here.

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