Editorial Integrity

At this moment, the “docu-drama” surrounding CBS’s handling of forged documents pertaining to President Bush’s military service continues to be the talk of the consumer media. Not too long ago, the venerable New York Times had an integrity crisis of its own when one of its reporter fictionalized news stories that were published in the Times as factual news stories.

The heart of the publishing business, whether consumer or trade, is editorial integrity. Readers assume that it exists, which is why they’re willing to pay for a newspaper and view advertisements that support a television station. But when editorial credibility is in question, there is a different price to pay … and it is viewers or readers who demonstrate their ire by switching to the competition.

This year, the Wall Street Journal wrote about a related topic: the separation of “church” and “state” in the media world. WSJ‘s story concluded that although the wall between editorial and advertising sales had not been breached, the relationship between editorial and advertising sales has changed. Advertisers have become more sophisticated and have adjusted their approach, developing their product positioning statements with more of an editorial slant to improve the chances of editorial coverage.

Trade publishing is not much different from consumer publishing. Over the past five years, there has been increasing pressure from advertisers to editorially cover their company, their products, or their people. Readers of JCK magazine and its other publications—Trendz, Luxury, and eMonday—know that JCK lives by the standard of objective editorial reporting. JCK‘s editorial cannot be bought. The trust granted to our magazines by their primary customers, independent jewelry retailers, continues to be the magazine’s unique selling proposition.

Readers should notice the confluence of editorial and advertising when it occurs, especially in the trade media. The separation of these two functions is critical if the publication expects to retain its credibility with readers.

Readers expect objective analysis, reporting, and opinion pieces as well as original material from trade publications. Critical reading of articles and opinion pieces in trade magazines is just as important as it is in the consumer media. Perhaps it is even more important in trade publications, because they appear less frequently than television news, consumer magazines, and consumer newspapers.

Readers of JCK, Luxury, and Trendz continue to place great trust in what they read in these publications. They do so because they rely on the explicit statement of separation of editorial and advertising functions. And because we appreciate and value that trust, you will not see JCK‘s editorial staff writing promotional pieces for advertisers. Editorial integrity is fundamental to JCK‘s mission of providing jewelers with the information and analysis needed to operate their businesses more effectively and profitably. It is a mission statement well worth remembering.

fdallahan@reedbusiness.com