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Seed Media Group--More Questions Than Answers

Seed Media Group--More Questions Than Answers

Picture of Peter Lipson

As reported in this space, ScienceBlogs, the popular blog collective that hosts popular blogs such as Pharyngula and Respectful Insolence (and my own blog, White Coat Underground), is having some troubles.  

ScienceBlogs, which along with SEED Magazine is owned by Seed Media Group, launched an "advertorial" blog by PepsiCo, which they withdrew after an uproar from their own writers and others.  This clumsy episode resulted in the loss of some of their best bloggers, including big name writers like Rebecca Skloot (author of current bestseller The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks).  

The Guardian, one of the UK's most popular online news outlets, did some digging and apparently found some other interesting editorial decisions at Seed. The Guardian article alleges that one of SEED's writers had a story about the Bhopal disaster killed because the magazine was busy wooing Dow Chemical as an advertiser (this is laid out in an email to the writer).

Adam Bly, the CEO and apparently Editor-in-Chief, responded on his newly minted blog:

The Guardian article is ridiculous. One of our editors will be posting a reply which I'll publish here.

The additional response, penned by SEED editor Lee Billings, lists incidents in which SMG clearly showed editorial independence.  It did not refute the claims made in the Guardian.  After being called out on his non-response, Bly stated that "if the email came from someone here, it reflects an isolated mistake."

This is not an encouraging level of openness.  Christopher Mims, one of ScienceBlog's original employees, gives a cogent analysis of some of the problems that may lead to this sort of problem.  He describes how having one person as both CEO and EiC of a publication puts the "Chinese Wall" between editorial and publishing in one person's head.  This is not ideal.

This entire, evolving episode reveals a disturbing level of naiveté, incompetence, or both in this particular branch of new media.  

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