The Perils of International Publishing

MichaelJacksonGQ

September 2009

 

Why ‘GQ’ Doesn’t Want Russians To Read Its Story

from NPR: “…Conde Nast management has decided that the September issue of U.S. GQ magazine containing Scott Anderson’s article ‘Vladimir Putin’s Dark Rise to Power’ should not be distributed in Russia,” Birenz wrote. [Jerry Birenz is a Conde Nast lawyer.]

He ordered that the article could not be posted to the magazine’s Web site. No copies of the American edition of the magazine could be sent to Russia or shown in any country to Russian government officials, journalists or advertisers. Additionally, the piece could not be published in other Conde Nast magazines abroad, nor publicized in any way.”

Scott Anderson

Scott Anderson (photograph by Timothy Fadek)

Even GQ’s own cover makes no mention of Anderson’s article. “It was quite mysterious to me,” Anderson told NPR. “All of a sudden, it became clear that they were going to run the article but they were going to try to bury it under a rock as much as they possibly could.”

Why squelch a well-written, accurate, newsworthy story? As NPR notes: “Conde Nast owns Vanity Fair and GQ as well as other publications, including Russian versions of GQ, Glamour, Tatler and Vogue.”

“If you’re worried about repercussions and you bow to them, you’re basically surrendering to the other side,” Anderson says.

“The other side.” Those words caught our eye, mostly because that other side is easy to identify when you see the world in national terms. Russia is not France is not China is not the United States. These nations are different in important ways, a fact that National Geographic once understood. Respectfully highlighting those national differences helped the Society grow to its historic peak of more than 10 million members in the 1980s.

NGM_International_NameplatesToday, though, our Society’s official journal — which began launching local language editions in the 1990s, and now publishes 30 of them — speaks to us not as citizens of particular nations as much as caretakers of the planet. Why? Because most of the Magazine’s editorial content must work as well for our Russian and Chinese partners as it does for our partners in Western Europe.

The result: the Magazine now focuses more on what we all share, and less on what makes us different. Catering to such a broad audience (“Will our international partners like this article?“) helps explain why National Geographic Editor-in-Chief Chris Johns killed a feature story called Censorship in China just weeks before he went to Beijing to celebrate the Magazine’s new publishing partnership with China. (We described that embarrassing episode here.)

In related news: our Society’s membership is now at 4.2 million people — and falling fast.

You can read NPR’s piece about GQ here. And you can listen to NPR’s radio segment below.

Postscript: Gawker posted the entire GQ story on its own website, and asked readers to translate Anderson’s text into Russian. This crowdsourced translation is almost complete, and is available here.

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photo credits
≡  Michael Jackson GQ cover via coverawards.com
Scott Anderson by Timothy Fadek (www.timothyfadek.com) via NPR

  • Roger Baumgarten

    Reminds me somewhat of the articles written about the controversy over the Danish Mohammed cartoons–that didn’t publish the cartoons themselves.

    • I’m trying to remember the rationale for that strategy. Was it: “The cartoons were published elsewhere, so we can just link to it“? If so, GQ might take the same approach: “Gawker posted the Russian translation, so all bases covered!”

  • Roger Baumgarten

    Reminds me somewhat of the articles written about the controversy over the Danish Mohammed cartoons–that didn’t publish the cartoons themselves.

    • I’m trying to remember the rationale for that strategy. Was it: “The cartoons were published elsewhere, so we can just link to it“? If so, GQ might take the same approach: “Gawker posted the Russian translation, so all bases covered!”

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