Clinical Decisions Made Beyond the Lines
By Jason J. Nichols, OD, MPH, PhD, FAAO
In very general terms, a publisher is a firm that is in the publishing business, publishing is the business of distributing editorial content, and editorial is the content that fills the publication. You could get more specific and say that “an editorial” is opinion-based content, based on the author's perspective. However, my view is that editorial content is generally that which has been either composed or approved by an editor or editorial staff.
Historically, it is accepted that there is a sort of “church and state” wall that divides the editorial team and the publisher (and therefore, advertisers and sponsors). This is required so as to not blur the line between the publication's need for independent editorial content and its need for revenue, which is often in large part associated with advertisements (in addition to other things such as subscriptions). Editors do not create or even review advertising, and thus, it is not editorial content. Quite honestly, however, you could make the argument that one way or another, all of most publications' content is “sponsored.” Consumer Reports is an example of one publication that relies on subscriptions (rather than advertising), which is quite a different model from most publications. Obviously both things identified above—objective editorial content and revenue—comprise the combination for success in most publications.
As time went by, many issues developed that impacted this model. These factors include competition in the market, changing market dynamics, and industry trends in addition to more recent things such as technology and the Internet. As such, both advertisers (sponsors) and publishers have developed creative new ways to work together, which at times can be perceived as blurring the line between “church and state.” This includes advertorials (an advertisement presented in the style of an editorial piece) and sponsored editorial content. In Contact Lens Spectrum, these take the form of sponsored supplements and even of special editions of the journal.
So, where am I going with this? Our editorial staff and publisher try very hard to keep a firm line between “church and state.” As one of my predecessors Joe Barr, OD, MS, FAAO, stated in a prior editorial: “We Don't Take Sides” (September, 2004), and what I think he meant by this was that our publication makes every attempt to print objective editorial content. We try very hard to make things as evidence-based as possible. However, we also print editorial content based on the authors' thoughts, experiences, and opinions. We recognize that clinical pearls are very valuable to clinicians, and it is often in those clinical trenches that initial observations lead to further studies and, ultimately, to changing clinical care. A journal can provide knowledge and awareness through editorial content, but ultimately it is your decision as to how to incorporate that material into practice.