A Few Tips for Media Types Who Strive to Do Wrong Better

Don't Run Advertising From Marketers You're Ashamed of; Do Refrain From Whining When You Win

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Media Guy Simon Dumenco is on special assignment (and no, that's not code for rehab). His colleague Nat Ives, aka Media Boy, has graciously agreed to fill in for him this week.
Save it Rupert: Murdoch whined about being criticized during Dow Jones bid.
Save it Rupert: Murdoch whined about being criticized during Dow Jones bid. Credit: Nancy Kaszerman

If there's one thing the media business does well, it's behave badly. I'm not talking about the kind of stuff attacked by groups such as the American Family Association, which sent members a letter this month blasting Redbook for encouraging a "pagan, hedonistic lifestyle." No, I'm talking about a mess of more plausibly dubious practices, from complaining in victory to running tobacco ads even though you're ashamed. This behavior comes easily to us. But even if we do wrong a lot, we could always do wrong better. So here are some tips for your week.

Don't' Let Us Glimpse Your Thinnest Skin.

Condé Nast Portfolio had originally hoped to feature Tom Freston in its installment of the Condé Nast "Point of Passion" ad campaign.

Although he denied this last week, insiders said Mr. Freston backed out of negotiations because of an item in Portfolio's first issue called "The Goldenest Parachutes." It reported that he, among others with "ridiculously rich exit packages," got $85 million when he had to leave Viacom last September. "The stock price slumped, and he failed to push online expansion aggressively enough," the Portfolio article said. "Losing MySpace to News Corp. was the last straw." (In an e-mail, Mr. Freston told Ad Age: "They had asked me, I just decided I wasn't the product endosement type. It was not due to that item.")

It's perfectly bad-ass for Mr. Freston to retaliate, but it also reveals an interest in image-control that's unnecessary in a wealthy, much-loved former executive. Better to cry into a pillow stuffed with high-denomination greenbacks. Plus, Portfolio is now giving the exposure to Strauss Zelnick, chairman of companies including Take-Two Interactive Software and Columbia Music Entertainment of Japan.

Don't Run Cigarette Ads in Your Magazine Unless You're Willing to Stand Up For Yourself When Challenged.

A bevy of women's magazines have been failing on this front since June, when 41 members of Congress sent an open letter accusing them of complicity in women's deaths from smoking, particularly because their readers include so many young women and girls under 18.

None would defend themselves in the press. Why not come to the phone and suggest, for example, that your readers are sophisticated enough to make their own choices about a legal product? Apparently the publishers aren't very proud of their business with tobacco.

Do Feel Free to Take The Ads Some People Say You Shouldn't, as Long as You're Fine With It.

Whenever someone complains about the adult-services ads in the back of New York magazine, New York just asks where the crime is. "Our policy has been and remains that if ever the authorities bring us any evidence at all that illegal activity is behind any of the services or businesses advertised in our magazine," a spokeswoman says, "those advertisers will no longer be welcome." There you have it; readers may now avoid the mag if they object, or applaud its commitment to free speech instead.

Don't Whine in Victory, Especially About Something You Do Yourself.

Rupert Murdoch's New York Post and Fox News level incendiary charges all the time. So his conference-call appearance bemoaning the way people talked about him during his successful bid for Dow Jones was not becoming. "I spent the better part of the past three months enduring criticism that is normally leveled at some sort of genocidal tyrant," Mr. Murdoch said. "If I didn't think [Dow Jones] was such a perfect fit with such unlimited potential to grow on its own and in tandem with News Corp. assets ... I would have walked away." Man up, Rupert.
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