Friday, May 4, 2007

PC world editor walks, publisher demands favorable treatment to advertizers

Wired news reports that the editor-in-cheif of PC World magazine, Harry McCracken walked off the job on Wednesday after being told to pull an story called "Ten Things We Hate about Apple" by the magazine's CEO Colin Crawford. Reports Kim Zitter:

The source didn't know the specifics of what was in the story Crawford wanted to kill but said it was nothing new. "It was supposed to be light fare, just really innocuous stuff. The same kinds of things people have said about Apple before -- things that teased Steve Jobs," he said.

Apparently teasing is a no-go zone in big-business publishing now--it scares away advertisers, a group so fragile that even the gentlest poke (I mean, really, how much teeth could that story have had) will send them scurrying to the hills.

It gets worse though. In Zitter's original report, it was also written that Crawford had requested that reviews of advertisers' products not be so negative--a trend that seems to be spreading throughout the publishing industry, from computers to indie records. As a result magazines are quickly becoming 120-page collections of press releases instead of actual, you know, magazines.

Since the original report, there's been some clarification, mainly on the question of whether PC Word is giving its advertisers favorable reviews. Zitter again:

With regard to whether or not Crawford addressed the issue of asking editors to tone down their negative reviews of vendors, the source said, "He denided that he would ever ask editors to tone down the coverage, but at the same time he said he wants the marketing people to have input on our processes."

So that really clears everything up, right? Giving "the marketing people" "input" is tantamount to allowing the Dell Dude (god, remember him) to write the reviews. And, to me, seems even worse that just flat-out saying write favorable reviews.

All in all it's the latest in a parade of examples of the suits stepping into the newsroom to explain to editors and writers how to do their job by, essentially, changing the long-standing rules of what the job is in the first place.