There Are Two Sides to Every Editorial Wall

In an article today on MediaShift, Dorian Benkoil makes a good case for why reporters and editors should be more involved in the business side of publishing. My only complaint is with what seems to be his guiding premise: that the fault is all theirs. And not only that—their refusal to sully their hands in the business side is contributing to the decline of the entire industry:

“For too long, reporters and editors have been unaware, even hostile to the business sides of their organizations. Those attitudes have helped push the news industry into its current dire state.”

As I’ve suggested before, the purpose of the editorial wall isn’t just to keep the business side out of editorial. It’s also to keep editorial out of the business side. Benkoil seems to recognize this when he writes (emphasis mine), “Can you name another business in which the people who make the key product are allowed, even encouraged, to be ignorant of how they make money?” But for the most part, he seems to feel that editors are the chief culprits in their own shackling.

Many editors I know have at some point or another made an effort to get involved in the business side. Most of the time, they’ve been shot down, patronized, and kicked back over the wall. Can you blame them for deciding not to get involved in business?

I applaud Benkoil’s exhortation to editors to tear down the wall. But, please Dorian, can you yell at those on the other side of it too?