By Howard Rauch
“How can I reorganize the role of the editors to focus more on revenue generation? How is that possible without crossing the line between editorial and advertising, which already is blurred by more advertorials, cover tips, belly bands, etc?”
The above questions, posed during ASBPE’s Ethics Virtual Roundtable on June 12, reflect similar concerns on the minds of many attendees.
In the upcoming revised version of ASBPE’s Guide to Preferred Editorial Practices, we will indicate that it’s okay for senior editors to be engaged in planning advertorials or supplements. But when it comes to actual copy creation and source interviewing, such tasks should be executed by qualified freelance writers. At no time is it deemed acceptable for an article carrying a staff editor byline to appear as part of a sponsored content page or section.
Ethics Committee members during the three one-hour conference calls last week also spent some time on these issues:
• Editorial quality slippage due to to rapidly rising workloads.
• How sponsored sections with an editorial flavor should be labeled; the ASBPE ethics code suggests “Advertisement” or “Sponsored Section.”
• Concerns about contractual agreements offered by publishers insisting that all rights to articles written by freelancers be surrendered.
• The need to establish a policy anticipating requests to “unpublish” online content.
• Relationships with association editorial boards and how to educate them on the value of editorial excellence and independence. Ethics Committee representatives suggest such boards should not be allowed to dictate editorial policy. Sometimes readership studies can help resolve disputes by revealing that content board members prefer is of less interest to survey representatives.
I’d like to thank Ethics Committee representatives who helped me field attendee inquiries: Paul Heney, Roy Harris, Abe Peck and Robin Sherman.
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.