Cover image: ASBOPE Guide to Preferred Editorial PracticesApproved revision of ethics guide calls for increased transparency.

May 22, 2006 – After a six-month review of ethical issues that face business-to-business (B2B) magazine editors, ASBPE has approved a new set of standards. They are detailed in a document called “ASBPE Guidelines for Preferred Editorial Practices.”

The new guidelines were approved unanimously by the 18 ASBPE board members in April and are available to anyone.

To be introduced at national conference

The guide will be formally introduced in detail at the National Editorial Conference in Chicago on July 20–21.

One of the most important differences between the old guidelines and the new one is the call for transparency. The guidelines urge editors to help ensure that publishers thoroughly publicize their ethical standards and codes that guide them, whatever they are, to its internal staff and externally to readers, advertisers, and others in a publication’s marketplace.

Transparency is important because the press often gets a bad name when it clearly does not tell its various constituencies what standards and procedures it uses and why.

In general, these new guidelines provide more detail about the previous guide’s provisions. It also delves into new territory covering graphics, photography, research, trade shows, contests, and other operations. The major topics covered are:

  • Conflicts of interest
  • Standards for editorial operations
  • Graphics and photography
  • Special advertising sections
  • Conferences, trade shows
  • Nonprofit publications
  • Digital publications

The ethics committee’s job

The ethics committee named last fall by the ASBPE board thoroughly analyzed the organization’s old “Code of Preferred Editorial Practices,” last revised in November 2000. The group also studied ethics codes of numerous other journalism associations and publishing houses and consulted with journalism ethics educators and consultants.

Ethics committee members included

  • president Roy Harris;
  • vice president Portia Stewart;
  • treasurer Ira Pilchen;
  • Philadelphia chapter president Michael Lear-Olimpi;
  • past president Paul Heney, and
  • associate director Robin Sherman.

Jeffrey Seglin, the noted business-ethics writer, now an associate professor of publishing at Emerson College, served as special consultant to the committee.

“The committee did an amazing job of researching and analyzing media ethics codes,” Seglin said. “It thoroughly questioned every aspect of the existing ASBPE guidelines to make sure the strongest guidelines for ASBPE member publications was the end result.”

Said ASPBE president Harris: “Our organization can be proud of the extremely hard work that went into this, including, at times, excruciating examinations of standards that have been made part of more than a dozen other codes. We wanted to make sure that what we adopted was just right for B2B publishing.

“We also needed our guidelines to be flexible enough to change with the expanding ethical scene, and yet to provide firm boundaries for editors who raise ethical questions in their organizations.”

The ethics committee’s work goes on. The new guidelines establish a standing committee to monitor ethical issues, suggest updates, and be a sounding-board for editors who may raise ethical questions. The committee also will solicit comments from ASBPE members and others and pursue continuing ethics conversations on the Society’s online discussion forum and at conferences and chapter meetings.