SNEWS Editorial: Why is Crowther upset at OIA for perceived censorship of news release - SNEWS

SNEWS Editorial: Why is Crowther upset at OIA for perceived censorship of news release

Why is one company so eager to bash another if their company is so good – are they that afraid of the competition? The question comes to mind as we address a dust up over a Climbing magazine news release being removed from the OIA website.

On Dec. 11, 2009, Mark Crowther, owner of SKRAM Media and publisher of Climbing magazine, sent out the following press release:

According to the recently-released Audit Bureau of Circulations (ABC) statement, Climbing Magazine ( recorded an average per-issue circulation of 42,343 for the first half of 2009; this delivers 6% bonus circulation over the average circulation stated at the start of the year – equivalent to an additional 23,430 copies.

Climbing’s 6% bonus circulation is in contrast to the performance of the number-two magazine in the same category, Rock & Ice. According to Rock & Ice’s Statement of Ownership published in its January 2010 issue, the magazine’s average circulation per-issue in 2009 was 24,778, 18% short of the circulation commitment made in the magazine’s media kit at the start of the year. Rock & Ice’s shortfall is equivalent to 47,673 less copies in circulation.

Climbing Magazine’s average per issue circulation — the only ABC-audited circulation in the category — has exceeded 40,000 copies every year for the last two-years - having grown 19 percent between 2007 and 2009. Over the same period, Rock & Ice magazine’s average circulation has fallen 9% to 24,778.

In addition to sending the release to news organizations Crowther posted that release to the OIA website (his company, SKRAM, is a member of OIA). Ten days later, on Dec. 21, OIA evoked its Terms of Use agreement and removed Crowther’s release from its website.

Crowther subsequently sent SNEWS an email via our online website contact form that essentially wondered why his news release had been censored by OIA when everything in the press release was factual and could be corroborated by independent sources.

While we can empathize with Crowther that having a press release removed from a website is certainly upsetting, SNEWS® can see plenty of basis for its removal from the OIA website.

  1. OIA is a member organization. They are not obliged to publish or promote any company’s news or information at any time.
  2. OIA’s Terms of Use Crowther references very clearly state: “You may not post any material that, in our sole judgment, is objectionable or which restricts or inhibits any other person from using or enjoying the Site, or which may expose us or our users to any harm or liability of any type.” We suspect that since the release is essentially slamming Rock & Ice, a competitor, and also an OIA member, it was deemed to be both objectionable and inhibiting others from enjoying the site.
  3. We received the release too, and did not post it to SNEWS since we find any news release that seeks to promote one company’s services by overtly knocking another company as distasteful in most instances. There are exceptions…when it is done in good taste and with a sense of humor – think Mac vs. PC ads on TV for example. However, we also point out that since we are a news and information entity, different from OIA, had Crowther posted his news release to our site himself, which as a subscriber he can do, we would not have removed it. But that has nothing to do with First Amendment rights. It’s simply a business decision.

Crowther also asserted in the email to us that OIA’s action could be perceived as a violation of First Amendment Rights by infringing on freedom of the press. Noting that this is not the first time we've heard the freedom of the press argument bandied about when a story is not run or heavily edited, we suggest boning up on Constitutional law. The right of freedom of the press to which Crowther referred is a guarantee by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution that anyone can publish and distribute information in books, magazines, and newspapers without government intervention. OIA is certainly not a government entity, unless we missed a recent coup.

Ultimately though, this news release raises the issue of taste, and what is and is not tasteful and helpful. We applaud competition as it is both appropriate and extremely healthy for a market. Healthy competition inspires innovation and evolution and brings out (in most cases) the best in all of us. However, we also believe in ensuring the health of our industry and all industries for that matter, by encouraging and supporting a collaborative spirit, and a compassionate spirit in all of us. Crowther’s news release, in our view, served only to tear down a competitor and we felt it was rather mean-spirited.

And to what end? As long as I’ve been in business, going back to running Western Mountaineering, I’ve always felt that anytime anyone (a rep, sales director, company president, marketing head, etc.) calls out their competition in any kind of negative manner it brings their own company down a notch on the trust meter. I also can’t help but wonder why that company is so eager to bash another if their company is so good – are they that afraid of the competition?

Next time around, we’d suggest to Crowther that he stick to news releases that put the focus only on his company. It’s great that his circulation is up 6 percent. We just wish he’d left the news release at that.

--Michael Hodgson



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