Monday, March 31, 2008

Vogue and Elle and NEJM and JAMA , Oh, My!

That is a bizarre title and most people would never expect to see the name of those publications toghether in a list.

But in my head the similarities are incredible, because I am submerged and inbibed in both worlds. And I am one of the most knowlegeable people in the field of publication ethics, like, in the whole bloody planet. Yes, this girl is all that. And I have seen with my own two eyes and felt in my own skin, the damage that unethical dispersion of information and propagating lies does to people and the world. I have seen a fallacious study for a drug move from the bench to the clinical study, to the reps and physicians and end up as a prescription for a bad, contraindicated drug that will be harmful in the hands of one of my relatives. And I only have myself and my colleagues to blame. There no longer are checks and balances and there are no gatekeepers or fair arbiters. And if you put your faith in the FDA, may God keep your soul and protect you, because they too derive most of their revenue from the industry they regulate.

All of these publications have large circulations and high impact. They were the leaders and authorities in the fields of fashion and clinical science/medicine.

And then, greed moved in and made itself at home.

And greed brings along its twin brother, complete and utter lack of ethics and objectivity. His nickname is corruption.

I have been writing a lot about Anna Wintour and her reign of terror at Vogue.

But the exact same thing can be said about the editors of Elle, JAMA, and NEJM ( and really 90% of medical journals), particularly since Marcia Angell and Jerome Kassirer were ousted.

Probably the biggest problem that plagues all these publications is the issue of conflict of interest. How on earth can you be truthful and honest and objective when your revenue depends and is completely derived from the same folks whose studies, products , clothes or cosmetics you are evaluating and providing an opinion on?

The answer is you cannot.

It gets even worst when the people who evaluate the stuff and the people who write the stuff are constantly receiving perks from the companies whose products they are evaluating.

And that is 100% accurate of BOTH the medical/pharmaceutical world and the fashion industry and the editorial outlets and people involved in both. Believe me, I KNOW.

For example, how are you going to say that let’s see, Betsy Johnson’s collection was hideous and the quality of her costume jewelry is subpar, when Betsy is putting a 100, 000 $ add in your mag?

Or why would you refuse to publish an ill-conceived and poorly conducted study exaggerating the benefits of a drug or the incidence and importance of a disease or downplaying serious side effects, if the pharma company sponsoring the study is a big source of your revenue?

And this is almost the case ubiquitously for all of these formerly prestigious publications.

But the world is changing fast.

Up until the turn of the millenium we relied on the publications for our information.

The internet changed everything.

Now the information is peer to peer and we all communicate with each other.

People, normal, regular everyday people like you and I have a previously unknown amount of power.

And information and the validity of a brand , product, concept, whatever, has to withstand the scrutiny of ALL of US.

Companies know that peer-to-peer blogging can KILL brands.

Or create overnight brand loyalty and sensations.

But what some expert or celebritute or mag says is evaluated and chewed and shared by all of us with a presence in the internet. Shoot ,social networks like myspace and personnal blogs have even created their own vintage of celebrities like Perez Hilton, Tila Tequila, and Jeffrey Starr. I bet you had never thought that in your life you would read Tila Tequila and JAMA in the same piece of writing...LOL

And this leads to the issue of authenticity and veracity. The only way a brand, product or concept can withstand this level of scrutiny is if it holds true value.

Like the saying goes, you can fool some people some of the time. But you cannot fool all people all of time, no matter who you are.

We don’t buy it anymore because we all talk to each other and we say the truth and we are not scared of anything and we think independently.

We don’t buy dogma. At least the smart ones of us don’t.

So, if someone putting out something wants that something to be successful, the rules of thumb are simple. Put out good stuff. Stuff that is effective, innovative and safe. Stuff that addresses existing problems and that provides unique solutions. Diffuse and promote veracious and authentic information and do not patronize or antagonize your target audience.

Uphold the highest standard of ethics. And give us your best possible effort.

And golly, we will cheer you on as if we were the Laker girls.

But please spare us the bullshit. We are onto you. All of you.

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