How Do You Handle a Bully?

How far should we let the bullying go? We were taught as kids to ignore bullies. But a part of me feels like Ralphie in the movie “A Christmas Story.” Sometimes, I think I might go nuts and break into a violent rage against one of the ad agency or marketing department bullies I have to contend with on a weekly basis.

When I was fresh out of college and working at Argus (now Primedia), I was steadfast about my journalistic principles. There was a church, and it was the editorial department. It was located on an entirely different floor from the state, which was the advertising department. The two departments didn’t mix much, or so I thought.

Now I realize maybe I was too young and naive to even realize all of the “favors” and “mentions” that occurred in the world of publishing in 1995.

As time has passed, I’ve grown well aware of the “business” side of the industry. Advertising – and happy advertisers – make the world go ‘round (and keep my paycheck automatically depositing). I am a little more accommodating now to sales reps who ask me to “please include” an advertiser in a story, or “create a sidebar for” or “give a new product entry to” a certain company. I only will do what makes sense, but I am happy and willing to include our loyal advertisers who support the magazine when and where I can.

So here is my question: Where do we draw the line with marketing bullies? You know the ones I am referring to, don’t you? Those people who imply that a company might stop advertising if I don’t do what I’m being asked to do, or who dangle the purchase of an ad over my (or my coworker’s) head, contingent on the inclusion of a new product or news release. Then there’s the marketing jackal who calls me up in a fury because his company was left out of an article, making an implied threat of pulling ads if I don’t somehow make it up to him and his company.

Sometimes, as editors, we are stuck between what we would like to do, and what we have to do. It stinks. My method of operation is usually to be chummy with PR and marketing types, but some folks make it really difficult. How do you handle the bullies of the publishing industry?

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