The scourge of copy approval

It came to my attention yesterday that a business-to-business (B2B) magazine had agreed copy approval with a senior company director about whom it was to publish a profile piece.

Copy approval – where the text of an article is shown to a subject or interviewee so as to allow them to make changes – is fundamentally wrong for any media outlet which claims to be independent.

I know that copy approval is not uncommon in consumer media (for example copy approval is often granted to celebrities by glossy magazines) and undoubtedly it happens along with other dodgy practices like covert paid-content, biased ‘by-lined’ articles and the like in the ‘lower end’ of the B2B media, but for a major professional title to cave into it shocked me.

It was only recently that media commentator Roy Greenslade wrote in his Guardian Blog: “B2B magazines are often in the forefront of breaking stories and the best of them are analytical and not afraid to campaign.” That clearly cannot be the case if B2B magazines hand over editorial control to corporates.

Looking at it from the perspective of a PR professional, copy approval might sound like a good thing – the opportunity to edit an article before publication has obvious attractions. But the way that it ultimately compromises the independence and authority of media outlets which engage in it means that it can never be a good thing. Insisting on copy approval can only weaken the media you are trying to influence.

Journalists should always check facts, and it is OK to run quotes past interviewees, but never full copy approval. Never.

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