|Benign dictatorship. That's how any single owner/operator manages. Vision and whim translate directly into action. This is certainly true for on-line publishing. The delay between idea and final posting could be a few hours. There's no endless corporate meetings, no memos. On the moons, that dictator is yours truly. Naturally, nobody is born into any given role. One hopes to eventually fill the shoes perfectly, of whatever presents itself as needing handling. In the meantime, you do the best you know how as you learn from mistakes and feedback.
Feedback. Now there's a loaded term. Some of it is educated and astute to deserve close scrutiny and implementation. Others is throwaway rubbish. Response -- or even acknowledgement -- would border on pandering. Case in point? The various conspiracy theories regurgitated by self-proclaimed watch dogs on the forums. Never mind their nearly always utterly unreasonable and impractical solutions whereby to eradicate perceived widespread corruption in publishing.
A lot is based on how perception becomes reality. Think repetition and insistence. Call someone a thief long enough. He'll soon find himself the object of suspicion and outright avoidance no matter if he never absconded with a thing. Accuse magazines of corruption long enough and innocent bystanders will soon feel forced to side with them accusations. After all, if they weren't true, how come they keep getting discussed over and over?
Take repeat reviews or awards for one and the same company. It's a given that sooner than later, perception becomes that payola of some sort must be involved. Should a publisher pander to perception then? Should he put a limit on how many items may be reviewed from any given manufacturer? Should he shackle his reviewers with clear a priori instructions? "Don't like this component too much or there'll be hell to pay." Why bother with the review process in the first place then? Its entire viability rests squarely on the reviewer's freedom to call it as she hears 'em; publisher, book and perception be damned.
Should a publisher control exposure, again to pander to the conspiracy theorists? This could deliberately keep highly deserving product out of the press. Isn't the publisher's first duty to his general readership, not the tiny portion of perennial malcontents who call him or his staff on the take? If a company makes lots of good product, shouldn't the readers be informed about it?
On the moons, these decisions end up on my table. The answer to the last question is a resounding "Yes!". None of my writers is told what to think. Nor hear nor write. For anything he or she accepts for review, the only stipulations are that things be presented professionally; that they comprehensively address all the vital features; and that one use a reasonable context of partnering equipment and comparison. Part of the latter is a function of who is assigned what. That's my prerogative and final call. That's about the extent of our behind-the-scenes machinations.
Then there's spreading it around. This means that if any one writer is about to turn into a quasi spokesperson for any company or product -- because he owns it or has reviewed multiple pieces already -- it's time to assign future reviews to someone else. As a result, however, said product could begin to accumulate more positive reviews and awards. Any reader endowed with deductive reasoning must concede that this particular product is clearly more deserving even than the first reviewer already raved about. Or else completely independent assessments -- in different rooms, with different equipment and different listening biases -- could surely not conclude with the same judgment.
This in fact is one part of the spread-it-around rationale. Affirmation (or not). The other is catering to the repute of the manufacturer. If one writer keeps enthusiastically on any one manufacturer's case, it undermines the very credibility of the products you want your readers to find about. It's unfortunately how the dark side works.
In the end, those who insist on viewing the glass as half empty and the world filled with darkness and evil will continue doing so regardless of our efforts. No sense adapting one's own life to their limited perspective. Our site bills itself as an enthusiast publication for fellow hobbyists. Our writers go after the products that turn them on. If that means that certain products appear in our pages more often than others, it simply means exactly what it suggests. It turns us on more. This type of Editorial policy I call catering to the higher good of all concerned. Spread it around. Alas, limiting our writers or myself with regards to what we review and how often we decide to do so for any given firm strikes me as pandering to the negative element. That we won't do. Put differently, take that which interests you from what we offer free of charge. Disregard that which doesn't. But don't complain if we review another Art Audio, Bel Canto, Eastern Electric, Gallo or Zu product. If you decide to read into that something negative, so be it. As enthusiasts, our lives are too short to not focus deliberately on that which gives us enjoyment.
Pandering vs. catering. Les Turoczi is currently putting the finishing touches on his Zu Audio Definition Pro review. I haven't read it yet but Les did indicate that he's nominated the speaker for a Blue Moon award. Let's see, that makes three of those for Zu (Tone and Definition Mk 1.5 the other two) and one Lunar Eclipse (Druid MkIV). Definitive fodder for the dark side. Or affirmation that four of our reviewers (myself, Paul, Stephaen and Les) have come to similar conclusions - and in three cases, even voted with our wallets. How you view these things is your choice. Just don't expect us to pander to negativity. We choose to cater to enthusiasm instead. The Microsoft Encarta College Dictionary calls pandering "to indulge weaknesses or questionable tastes and wishes" whereas catering is "to provide that which is wanted or needed". My point's been made!