A new survey by the American Society of Business Publication Editors says B2B journalists have "serious" concerns about how publishers handle ethics issues.
Obviously it's good news that journalists are worried about ethics issues. But just as obvious is that it's bad news that there's so much to be concerned about.
According to the survey:
-- At B2B publications that have a formal ethics policy, nearly a third of the editors said their company "only sometimes" backs them up for taking an ethical stand.
-- 40% of respondents said they were aware of sales staff engaging in unethical behavior.
And what sort of unethical stuff is happening out there? The journalists in the survey suggest that publishers blur the lines between advertising and editorial content, let advertisers review copy before publishing and force editors to make sales calls.
I applaud ASBPE for its work in this area. (FULL DISCLOSURE: ASBPE is planning to issue a new ethics policy this year. The group asked for my input, and I was glad to provide it.)
I have applauded ABM, ASME and TABPI for their work on ethics too, while condemning the Newsletter and Electronic Publishers group for failing to behave ethically.
But look...the simple truth is that B2B publishing is still riddled with inappropriate behavior. And it's routine for many trade journalists to put up with behavior that mainstream journalists would never tolerate. Heck, I regularly see trade reporters do things that no newspaper reporter would ever dream of doing -- running in-house ads as editorial copy or failing to report on the parent company, for example. And in my entire career I have never heard of a mainstream publisher requiring reporters to sell advertisements. But that does happen in B2B.
Take a look at the survey results (visit the ASBPE home page and follow the links or read Folio magazine's take on the survey.) Make sure that your coworkers take a look too. Know that as you struggle to behave like a professional, there are others out there just like you.
For my advice on how to handle an ethics lapse at your publication, see this earlier post.
tags: journalism, b2b, media, trade press, magazines, advertising, newsletters