The American Society of Magazine Editors will release new ethics guidelines as soon as this week that take a clear position on such industry practices as single-sponsor issues, custom magazines and advertiser tie-ins with editorial promotions.
"These new guidelines bring us up to date with the current state of magazine publishing," said ASME President Jacqueline Leo, who also serves as editorial director of Consumer Reports. "I believe they are guidelines that both editors and publishers will fully support."
INCLUDES NEW MEDIA
The "Guidelines for Editors & Publishers," formerly known as "Guidelines for Advertising Pages & Special Advertising Sections," has been broadened to include ASME's new-media guidelines and statements on editorial independence and prior review of editorial material by advertisers.
On the growing practice of custom publishing, ASME guidelines state that no editorial staffers should work on those projects prepared by the publisher for one or more advertisers. Custom publishing projects must also be sufficiently distinct from the look and content of the core magazine.
Similarly, for single-sponsor issues, the publication should fully disclose to readers in a publisher's or editor's letter the extent of an advertiser's support. The letter should also make clear that the advertiser in no way influenced the editorial content.
While advertisers can participate in reader contests under the guidelines, copy must not suggest an endorsement of products or services, and control of the contest must remain solely with editors.
MORE ADVERTISER ALLIANCES
While ASME regularly reviews its guidelines, the past 18 months have brought an increasing number of advertiser-editorial alliances that have never before been addressed.
"Our set of guidelines was pretty consistent, but they were narrowly written. We suddenly had all these situations that fell between the cracks and we found we were in uncharted waters a lot," said Landon Y. Jones, Time Inc. VP-strategic planning and an ASME board member.
PUBLISHERS, EDITORS SEEK HELP
Mr. Jones said publishers and editors have both sought guidance through the gray areas.
"We found ourselves sending out an increasing number of letters" that reprimanded titles for breaking the rules, Mr. Jones said, "and feeling sympathetic toward the titles because the guidelines were ambiguous. Some letters that were sent out were unnecessary. By reworking the language, we were hoping to clear that up."
In addition to letters, ASME can punish rule breakers. Last month, it yanked a National Magazine Awards nomination from Time Inc.'s This Old House after the magazine published an editorial poster that featured the logo of advertiser Ace Hardware. It was the first time ASME ever stripped a member magazine of such a nomination. ASME can also expel members for violations.
"The ultimate goal with the guidelines is clarity," said Marlene Kahan, ASME executive director. "We want to make clear what is editorial and what is