I am writing this column just one day before this issue of Christianity Today is to be sent to the printer. At this point, I don't know the identity of any advertiser whose message will appear in this issue. My momentary ignorance is unusual. In the normal course of events—when business travel doesn't interfere—I see a thumbnail layout of the magazine's pages a few weeks earlier. That diagram shows which articles and advertisements are going on which page. Nevertheless, we structure that normal course of events so that almost all the editorial copy for an issue has taken shape before advertising enters the picture.
Just as the American government practices "separation of powers," journalistic publications generally try to separate these business and editorial functions so that commercial interests do not exercise an improper influence on the writers and editors. We turn to several professional societies for guidance: the Society of Professional Journalists, the American Society of Magazine Editors, and the Evangelical Press Association. All of these organizations have ethics codes or sets of guidelines to help their members maintain editorial independence. They also help their members send clear signals to readers about which messages come from advertising interests and which from editors and writers. (CT Deputy Managing Editor Timothy Morgan and I had the privilege of writing the initial draft of the Evangelical Press Association's ethics code.)
To some people that may sound like CT is carrying too far the Lord's admonition to not "let the right hand know what the left hand is doing." But Christianity Today has good staff that can be trusted to make the system work. We have an experienced advertising staff that knows what ...1