New Book Satirizes Ethics at Business Mags

With all the recent posts on this blog about ethics, it's fitting that we recently received a press release on this book by pseudonymous author Python Bonkers. The press release mentions ASBPE's ethics survey:
A new novel, with a somewhat deceiving title (A Million Little Pieces of Feces - the fake memoir that is so much more fun than James Frey's) -- echoing a different, recent ethical publishing dilemma -- satirizes the compromised ethics at play in the fictional offices of American Tractor Times magazine. This trade magazine's office environment is a textbook illustration of the breakdown in barriers between the advertising and editorial departments.

ASBPE's (American Society of Business Publication Editors) recent member survey highlighted this rampant problem, with 92 percent of respondents expressing a need for editorial ethics guidelines. Among those respondents who indicated that their magazine already had an ethical code in place, 70 percent indicated that they faced no consequence for violating it. Other hot button issues addressed in the survey -- including the acceptance of gifts and the fact that 43 percent of editors are unhappy with their jobs, partially over ethics issues -- are also satirized in the book.

PC World Accused of Inflating Circ

I was dismayed to read in Folio: magazine that PC World is being sued for allegedly inflating its circulation numbers.

PC World is part of IDG, which I've always considered to be a trustworthy brand. Its publications tend to be notable for their editorial quality. Many of them have repeatedly won ASBPE awards, and company founder Pat McGovern was ASBPE's 2004 Lifetime Achievement Award winner, largely due to his reputation for editorial integrity. (PC World is also one of the few B2B pubs to post its code of editorial ethics — the code for all IDG publications — on its site.)

If the allegations in the lawsuit are proved true, not only will PC World's business practices be impugned, but its editorial integrity is likely to be doubted as well. IDG is famous for having magazines that act almost as separate companies, but if the case ends with a verdict agains PC World, the reputation of all IDG publications will likely suffer as a result.

May 11: Hone Your Editing Skills

Media Bistro is hosting a Grammar, Usage, and Style Tuneup in Boston on Thursday, May 11. From the web page:
In this class, you can expect to learn:
  • Handy tricks for remembering some of the stickier rules

  • How to adjust your level of "interference" in a document, depending on the type of text and the target audience

  • What kind of error to query and what to just fix

  • The best print and online resources for grammar, usage, and style guidance

  • How to make judgment calls with confidence when your usage and style manuals offer conflicting advice
(And for any aspiring fiction writers out there: Media Bistro is also offering a class in Cambridge on May 24 on Using Plot to Structure Your Fiction.)

Online Tool Helps Support Ethical Decision-Making

Here's a potentially useful resource: The American Society of Newspaper Editors and The Poynter Institute offer an online Ethics Tool designed to guide you through a solution to an ethical problem. The tool poses a series of questions and then compiles your responses into a printable document you can use to analyze the problem.

In light of ASBPE's ethics survey results showing that a significant number of B2B editors feel their publications "only sometimes" back them on ethical issues, it seems as if this tool could be useful. For instance, an editor could use it to help map out an argument to convince managers that an ethical dilemma does, in fact, exist. And it couldn't hurt to be able to point out that two respected organizations, ASNE and Poynter, created the standards used in the decision-making process.

In order to protect your confidentiality, you must be a registered Poynter user to use the tool (registration is free). Once you've answered the initial questions, you can invite other staff members will be able to collaborate on the project and upload relevant documents if they register too; only you and those invited by you are able to see your case information. But if you'd rather skip the online process and just work out your problem on paper, you can do that by printing out this questionnaire. The questionnaire is directed toward deciding whether or not to publish information; it doesn't sem to have been designed to answer questions such as whether it's ethical to sell ad space on a gatefold cover.

If anyone has actually used the ASNE/Poynter Ethics Tool — especially the online, collaborative version — I'd be curious to hear whether it was helpful. You can leave a comment to this post or email me.