Editorial: We were wrong

It is not Strategy's custom to begin its editorial column on the front page.But we feel the unusual step is necessary if we are to fully set the record straight on what we have determined was an inaccurate news report about...

It is not Strategy’s custom to begin its editorial column on the front page.

But we feel the unusual step is necessary if we are to fully set the record straight on what we have determined was an inaccurate news report about two Maclean Hunter consumer magazines, Chatelaine and Maclean’s. That report appeared on the front page of our March 21 issue.

The report, contained in the issue’s banner story, ‘Rumors swirl over MH print assets,’ suggested that if Rogers Communications is successful in its bid to take over Maclean Hunter, ‘many of mh’s consumer titles will face a bleak, uncertain future.’

The report went on to say that ‘Chatelaine could `bite the dust’ because of its worn formula and production difficulties,’ and that ‘Maclean’s is `fraught with problems,’ not the least of which is a clearly evident difficulty in attracting advertising.’

Although a variety of industry insiders were contacted during the research of the Strategy article, the contentious passages derived largely from a conversation with a single industry insider, who spoke to Strategy on the condition of anonymity.

At the time, the source’s comments, while dramatically expressed, seemed reasonably representative of other people’s general feelings.

Subsequently, we heard that our insider was misinformed and our coverage had been inaccurate and unfair. We then decided to contact a much broader range of people in the media industry to determine whether, indeed, an error had been committed.

(For the record, we should make it clear that the impetus that led to our detailed follow-up came from internal discussions on how we should deal with this issue. That is to say, the desire to set the record straight once we had determined that we had, in fact, erred was based on our own sense of responsible reporting and was not in response to any direct actions from Maclean Hunter. There have been none.

(As well, after determining that we were wrong, we felt it only fair to lead the story carrying the results of our investigation on our front page, in order that it receive the same prominence as the original story.)

After conducting the investigation, we have concluded that, while the article as a whole represented a fair attempt by Strategy to shed light on the prospects for Maclean Hunter’s consumer and trade publications in light of Rogers bid to buy up the company, the reportage on Chatelaine and Maclean’s was incorrect and, indeed, an unfair portrayal of the facts.

Everyone we contacted rated Chatelaine among the top women’s service magazines in Canada, and none could think of production difficulties serious enough to threaten the publication’s future.

Although several agreed Chatelaine’s formula is worn, they did not necessarily see that as a negative. Rather, as one media director pointed out: ‘One person’s worn is another’s comfortable.’

With respect to Maclean’s, there was consensus among the people we contacted that the magazine’s future, should it be bought by Rogers, would not be as ‘bleak’ as our coverage suggests.

But several pointed out that the newsmagazine sector has been suffering from low ad rates for the past several years, and, with the electronic media steadily increasing their coverage of news events, the format is under pressure to change with the times.

Obviously, there are strong competitive undertones between our publishing company and Maclean Hunter, publisher of Marketing magazine. In hindsight, that should have made us even that much more vigilant in a sensitive story involving Maclean Hunter products.

It also explains why we pursued this issue immediately and aggressively when it came to our attention.

We hope that our actions in setting the record straight allow us both to turn to a new page. At the time, the source’s comments, while dramatically expressed, seemed reasonably representative of other people’s general feelings.

Subsequently, we heard that our insider was misinformed and our coverage had been inaccurate and unfair. We then decided to contact a much broader range of people in the media industry to determine whether, indeed, an error had been committed.

(For the record, we should make it clear that the impetus that led to our detailed follow-up came from internal discussions on how we should deal with this issue. That is to say, the desire to set the record straight once we had determined that we had, in fact, erred was based on our own sense of responsible reporting and was not in response to any direct actions from Maclean Hunter. There have been none.

(As well, after determining that we were wrong, we felt it only fair to lead the story carrying the results of our investigation on our front page, in order that it receive the same prominence as the original story.)

After conducting the investigation, we have concluded that, while the article as a whole represented a fair attempt by Strategy to shed light on the prospects for Maclean Hunter’s consumer and trade publications in light of Rogers bid to buy up the company, the reportage on Chatelaine and Maclean’s was incorrect and, indeed, an unfair portrayal of the facts.

Everyone we contacted rated Chatelaine among the top women’s service magazines in Canada, and none could think of production difficulties serious enough to threaten the publication’s future.

Although several agreed Chatelaine’s formula is worn, they did not necessarily see that as a negative. Rather, as one media director pointed out: ‘One person’s worn is another’s comfortable.’

With respect to Maclean’s, there was consensus among the people we contacted that the magazine’s future, should it be bought by Rogers, would not be as ‘bleak’ as our coverage suggests.

But several pointed out that the newsmagazine sector has been suffering from low ad rates for the past several years, and, with the electronic media steadily increasing their coverage of news events, the format is under pressure to change with the times.

Obviously, there are strong competitive undertones between our publishing company and Maclean Hunter, publisher of Marketing magazine. In hindsight, that should have made us even that much more vigilant in a sensitive story involving Maclean Hunter products.

It also explains why we pursued this issue immediately and aggressively when it came to our attention.

We hope that our actions in setting the record straight allow us both to turn to a new page.