ASBPE Ethics: Your Input Is Appreciated

By Howard Rauch

It’s “High Noon” time in terms of considering possible ASBPE ethics code revisions. Your input would be greatly appreciated! ASBPE’s Guide to Preferred Editorial Practices is a frequently-used, excellent resource when ethics issues arise. Input received from Ethics Committee members and editors involved in recent disputes suggest that now is an appropriate time for us to consider code additions/revisions.

As committee chairman, I invite your contribution to this effort. Here are a few matters that will be subject to review this week:

(1) Front cover immunity from ad schemes. Publication front covers reflect a dedication to integrity and excellence that is soiled every time somebody succeeds in impositioning an advertiser logo or full-page overlay. Equally vexing are efforts to arrange for cover lines that plug advertorials within the issue. We need a stronger message discouraging such practices.

(2) Involvement in marketing strategy. Editors who attempt to follow a “hands off” policy when it comes to marketing engagement are bucking today’s reality. Any B2B ethics code must reflect that reality, which includes these considerations: (a) Top management has made it clear that editorial involvement in market planning is expected; (b) editors actually can make a valuable creative contribution to what might otherwise be a flat program.

(3) Somewhat related to the above point is the impact of content marketing programs. In vying for this revenue, some publishers already have launched editorial positions designed to focus totally on client content creation. Such client relationships place many editors on unfamiliar ground where new ethical dilemmas are bound to arise. What caveats can you suggest?

(4) Online media growth has become an ethical snake pit of sorts: (a) Ad pressure for more editorial exposure has increased dramatically; (b) the push for more on-line revenue has resulted in creation of sky-high workloads but minimum addition of adequate online staff. A critical impact of this pattern is editorial quality deterioration. What are your experiences in either arena? What steps can ASBPE’s ethics code recommend to offset such circumstances?

(5) Faulty fact-checking invites disaster. Our Guide includes a reference to the need for fact-checking. But we need a stronger warning that editors should not routinely post information appearing in newspapers or on-line media assuming it is accurate. Further, we should never “scrape” information from elsewhere before obtaining approval from the source.

(6) Freelance flak is flying. Several freelance sources keep me updated on cloudy payment plans and broken promises. As a result, there is a push coming from one freelance group for more business to be done by contract. Perhaps we could include a section in our code for the dual purpose of describing proper conduct by both freelancers and editors in their relationships.

(7) Social media snafus. I wonder what information can be conveyed to our members beyond what’s posted elsewhere. The missing links for me are examples of ethical snafus that have arisen due to editorial misconduct thru Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc.

So there you have a possible hit-list. Please share your views with the Ethics Committee through our contact form.

Howard Rauch is president of Editorial Solutions Inc., a consultancy focusing on B2B magazines. Rauch is the 2002 recipient of ASBPE’s Lifetime Achievement Award.

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