Editorial Guidelines to Separate Church and State
In my editor’s note in Publishing Executive, September 2007 (“’Pay to Play’ OK in the Digital World?”), I posed some questions about the separation of church and state in digital products. There have been print-related editorial-standards guidelines available to editors for a long time. But, such standards don’t exist yet for the majority of the digital world, especially regarding how editorial products such as webinars, podcasts, video coverage and the like are handled. If you haven’t read my editor’s note, you can view it here.
However, the American Society of Business Publication Editors (ASBPE) does have some great guidelines for “preferred editorial practices” for print and some new additions that address pieces of the digital world. (I would guess they are in the process of developing additional standards for newer digital projects.) Many editors are familiar with at least most of the guidelines, but many publishers, their sales staffs and other top executives are not--and they certainly would benefit from reading the full guidelines at (see “Code of Ethics”). While these guidelines specifically were developed for trade publications, the majority of them certainly can apply to consumer publications as well.
The specific ASBPE guidelines that I wanted to point out, though, deal with digital publications and some Web site practices that have been called into question. Some of these guidelines even go against the very strategy that a number of companies are using to build their online sales models.
- “Care should be used online, as with printed material, to avoid placement of advertisements in or near editorial content in a way that could compromise editorial integrity or confuse the reader.”
- “... Further, digital publications can present a special ethics challenge because hyperlinks of various kinds, which promote user involvement, can blur the separation of editorial and advertising for the average reader.”
- “Whether for editorial or advertising information, hypertext links should be placed at the discretion and approval of editors. Also, advertising and sponsored links should be clearly distinguishable from editorial, and labeled as such ...”
- “[Blogs and other online features] should be clearly labeled, easily found, and have easily understood user guidelines, including general rules, etiquette, privacy issues, and related policies. Statements concerning expected decorum and the control of an editorial moderator or supervisor over the blogs or other online discussion forums should be explained.”
I think these guidelines will surprise some of you and will be completely ignored by some others. And, while I think they could use a bit more development/specifics, I believe these are points well worth discussing with your editors ... and perhaps even some of your users.