ASBPE Ethics Advisory: An opinion from the American Society of Business Publication Editors

ASBPE Ethics Advisory 2008-09-12:
Article Reviews by PR reps

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Download a PDF version of this advisory (48K PDF): [download#1]

Issue: An editor would like to send his stories to the PR reps of those quoted in the story ahead of printing.

Response: This is not an advisable practice.

The ASBPE Guide to Preferred Editorial Practices states that “Generally, non-editorial personnel should not be allowed to preview an unpublished article. Exceptions include experts, editorial advisory board members, or other sources who will receive no benefit from the article. This also applies when a company or public relations person suggests an article. However, when a source or a company is referred to in an article, it may be acceptable for the editor to ask that the source review quotes or sections to ensure accuracy and clarity.”

The key to this guideline is that anyone who sees an advance draft must “receive no benefit from the article.” If the editor is sending the pages to the PR firm for approval and is willing to adapt or edit or embellish the copy based on requests from the PR firm, he is crossing ethical lines and allowing the PR firm to have undue influence on the editorial of the magazine. As a result, the credibility of the magazine risks being diminished (perceived as being controlled by PR firms) and the editorial product can be called into question. Also, if the favor of a preview is given to one PR person, word will spread that this is a service your publication provides when requested.

One option, when confronted with a PR person requesting an advance look, is to ask the person if he or she would want a competitor to get a look at the story in advance.

The committee was divided on permissible exceptions. Some members firmly believe that sharing a preview copy with a PR person is categorically unacceptable. Others believe that exceptions can be made for highly technical pieces when the most important thing for readers is to get the most accurate information. Also, some members believe it is permissible for the editor to send finished pages to the PR firm slightly ahead of time as a courtesy to let it know what will be in the issue, but the issue should already be put to bed.

Reference: ASBPE Guide to Preferred Editorial Practices I.B.1, I.B.5 and II.A.

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© Copyright 2008 American Society of Business Publication Editors

 

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