Stowell, who briefly freelanced for the Timesmagazine and now runs the Open design studio, is willing to accept Froelich's explanation. "I never believed that I was ripped off," he says. "But I was really surprised that no one in editorial was reading The Nation."
You can call Steve Brill arrogant, pompous, and "profoundly solipsistic," as the New York Observer did in a recent editorial, but don't call him closed-minded. After a phone call from Press Clips in early December questioning the influence of tobacco advertising on editorial content, the editor in chief of Brill's Content decided to revise his magazine's conflict of interest policy.
"That's a result of the conversation you and I had," Brill told Press Clips recently.
The magazine's policy is stated at the front of the book, under the heading WHAT WE STAND FOR. The old policy read, in part: "The content of anything that sells itself as journalism . . . should not be motivated . . . by the desire to curry favor with an advertiser or to advance a particular political interest unless those motives are clearly disclosed."
In the December issue, Brill ran six pages of tobacco ads along with an article that took the tobacco industry's position on secondhand smoke, a decision that led Press Clips to question his conflict of interest policy. The way the policy was origi- nally worded, it sounded like Brill thinks it's permissible to run an article that is favorable to an advertiser, as long as he informs the reader that his intention is to curry favor with the advertiser.
"That would be ridiculous," Brill said at the time. "It would be like saying, 'You should know I'm a whore.' " He recalls now that after speaking to Press Clips, he discussed the policy with a few people on staff and decided to clarify the wording. "It left the impression that I was saying that conflicts are okay, as long as you disclose them."
The new policy reads the same, except that the last phrase, "unless those motives are clearly disclosed," has been dropped. And that's a good move, according to Marshall Loeb, editor of the Columbia Journalism Review. "Before, it sounded like a loophole," says Loeb. "Now it's less equivocal and gives you less room to move around in. I would say it's an improvement."