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July 1, 2005

4 Min Read
Editorial: Thinly veiled...

MSnyder.jpgOccasionally we receive at these offices a pointed letter accusing us of some misdeed or another. A recent missive denounced an item we had published as being a ?thinly veiled advertisement.?

The letter did not ask for a response, so I just left well enough alone. What I wanted to do, but resisted (until now) was to reply to the effect that I didn?t see anything veiled about the item. It looked perfectly transparent to me.

Editorial vs. Advertisement

It was editorial material to us, the source having not paid us to include the item, but of course the supplier of the equipment in question considered the item to be a free advertisement. The nub of the matter is this: Advertisements are paid for, editorials are not.

Of course, there are exceptions here, as anywhere else. If circumstances arise in which an advertisement is run at no charge, that doesn?t make it editorial.

Advertisements include anything the advertiser wants them to, within the bounds of legality and the good taste of the publisher in accepting the ad for publication. I don?t think I have ever seen legality be an issue as such, although there have been patent disputes over some advertised items. Good taste is another matter, but of course taste is in the eye of the beholder.

Editorial material is subject to editing for length and content, and subject to the duty of the editor to keep the content as accurate as possible. An edited item, no matter what the variables, essentially reflects favorably on the product being described. That?s the nature of the business. We have never received a press release that says, in effect, ?Our product is a bucket of bolts, it?s expensive, uses old technology, is slow, and requires frequent repair.? Can you imagine?

Instead, we get releases that denounce conventional technology and proclaim integrated solutions to all the problems you have, and possibly some you don?t. We try to tone these things down to within some degree of plausibility.

Therein lies the key. We are intermediaries. We gather information from machinery suppliers and distribute it to processors (readers). We hope we are good at it, but in any case we have had a lot of practice.

Sometimes we can help out with the details. I got a press release one time that claimed a ?high output? granulator put through .5 lb/hr (not very much!). I decided that the description could be right, or the number could be right, but not both. I called the supplier, who gave a corrected number that was higher?a lot higher?than the original number supplied.

Laboratory Comparisons

Another memorable letter demanded that we conduct scientific tests comparing his product with products previously mentioned in the magazine. Not a bad idea in the abstract, but it won?t ever happen here. There are laboratories available that will conduct such tests on a paid basis, but that?s not the business we are in. We don?t even, as a magazine, express a preference for Brand A over Brand B. Anytime such a claim is made or implied, we identify the source. Naturally each equipment producer claims that its equipment works better than that of others, but any reader can take the source into account.

Unfair ranking

This complaint came in verbally rather than in the form of a letter. The claim was that we had put a top-ranked company too far down in a list.

How do you break it to somebody that the list was alphabetical? Furthermore, we never, ever, rank companies in PM&A, anyway. We publish lots of lists, but they contain types of equipment and contact information. They are not ranked by sales, profits, stock price, or anything else.

One industry publication is well known for publishing rankings, but those are processor rankings, not supplier rankings. Another publication did an unscientific (by its own description) survey about 10 years ago of a specific category of machinery, and published the rankings. The resultant firestorm was such that it was never done again, as far as I know.

As for the alphabet, I?ve many times thought it was unfair. I could reverse it, and publish the Z?s at the top and the A?s at the bottom. But the middle letters would still be stuck in the middle. Or I could switch to Mandarin Chinese, which is a non-alphabetical language, if I could find a translator.

So, I think we?ll just keep on fulfilling our basic mission of keeping you informed about the plastics processing technology that can make a difference in the competitiveness of your business. Meanwhile, call us rank and demand lab studies if you must. But please, don?t accuse us of thinly veiling anything.

Merle R. Snyder

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