ASBPE Ethics Advisory 2010-12-15:
Editor’s Participation in Sponsored Webinars
Issue: A group editorial director invited Ethics Committee comment on a written policy covering staff involvement in advertiser-sponsored webinars.
Response: ASBPE developed a new standard for its Guide to Preferred Editorial Practices, in which we recognize two types of webinars: editorial controlled and non-editorial controlled (e.g., controlled by advertising).
Background: Following an internal reorganization in his company, an editorial director saw the need to create standards designed to clarify proper staff participation in non-editorial-controlled webinars. One key objective: to avoid situations in which an advertiser would pay to be interviewed by an editor and then have the discussion presented as if it were independently produced editorial content.
The inquiry spurred the committee to add an advisory that distinguishes between editorial-driven and sponsor-generated events. For specific details, refer to Section VII.G in the Guide.
Handling of this advisory illustrates the Ethics Committee’s review process. The first step was a brief follow-up conversation with the inquiring party. A draft of the proposed webinar policy was then forwarded to the entire committee for comment. After studying the array of email responses to the inquiry, the committee chairman forwarded a summary of the recommendations to the inquirer.
In the main, committee members supported the idea that editors should not be involved in sponsored webinars. However, some mild dissent ensued about the wisdom of prohibiting editors from making creative input during the planning phase of webinars or other sponsored programs.
For additional details, refer to a report featured in the December 2010 issue of Editor’s Notes (677K PDF). All requests for advisories are treated as confidential unless the inquirer wishes the committee to assume a more involved role.
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