Esquire's Pay-for-Play Journalism in China


Chinese Esquire, speaking truth to power

Hey look! Esquire yesterday was nominated for three presitigious National Magazine Awards! Congratulations, Esquire! (Reason, alas, got shut out.)

In other Esquire news, the Chinese edition of the magazine peddles its news pages to the highest bidder without disclosing anything to readers. Here's today's New York Times:

Want a profile of your chief executive to appear in the Chinese version of Esquire? That will be about $20,000 a page, according to the advertising department of the magazine, which has a licensing agreement with the Hearst Corporation in the United States. […]

Executives at the Chinese language version of Esquire magazine say they regularly publish soft news features that are essentially ads masquerading as news.

One example was a feature about a European audio company, Bang & Olufsen, that supplies equipment to Audi, the automaker. Nothing in the magazine indicated that the Chinese Esquire had been paid to run it.

But the magazine received at least $10,000 a page for the five-page feature, according to the publication's executives, who e-mailed images of it as an example of the paid genre. They, and others who helped produce the article, said Audi was involved in the payment. A spokesman in China for Audi declined to comment. Cheryl Sim, a Bang & Olufsen spokeswoman in the company's Singapore office, said it was not the company's practice to pay for news coverage. "We certainly did not pay in this Esquire case," she said. "But we'll look into the matter." The Hearst Corporation declined to comment.

I wrote and edited (respectively) articles very similar to the New York Times piece in 1992 Czechoslovakia and 1996 Hungary. Journalism outlets there, including respected publications owned by venerable Western media companies, were engaging in undisclosed pay-to-play, often with the participation and even encouragement of notable Western advertising and P.R. firms. As a purely moral and journalistic matter, I hope the people who know better–particularly the Hearst Corporation–catch heat for this. The ultimate competitive advantage in journalism is not pocketing today's bribe money, but spreading and selling tomorrow's culture in which integrity is rewarded and corruption scorned. 

NEXT: Brickbat: Drooling Idiots

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  1. Matt, I hope you mean you authored and edite articles similar the the NYT article, not the Esquire articles. I assume that’s what you meant but it’s not quite clear.

    1. Dittoes. Inquiring minds, etc.

      1. Thanks, changed the wording.

  2. “Hearst Corporation”

  3. How declasse. I thought everyone knew you laundered your pay-for-play through the advertising budget.

    1. Huh. Could not doing so trigger an FCPA claim? Probably not, since it’s sort of akin to selling ad space, but I suppose it’s possible.

  4. What is it with Esquire and Anorexic women?

    1. If you’re referring to the cute (hot IMO) girl on the cover, you might as well be trying to get all girls in Asia a sammich.

      1. I think she’s pretty. It was more a comment about Esquire than about her.

    2. Something about if you are attracted to titless skinny women, you must be a latent homosexual and if you like a little meat on your bones and big ol’ fat titties you got a case of the Oedipal creepies.

      1. If they have a vagina and are not hideous or gross than I’m pretty much on board.

    3. BTW, I like that face on China girl above. It’s an interesting face.

    4. Chinese people who live in China are skinny. She doesn’t look anorexic to me.

      1. It’s probably more how they did the lighting with the shadows arounds the eyes and cheeks.

      2. Mainly the ones in Poorsville China are skinny. There are plenty of fatties in the developed areas.

  5. The Chinese need to learn the subtle arts of Western journalism, where you sell yourself as objective observers of society and pretend that the people that pay for advertising do not influence their articles they write.

    1. See, for example, all gun magazines.

      1. or audio magazines – you can’t give a speaker a bad review, or else the magazine will lose advertising dollars and/or freebies from the manufacturers.

        So if something is truly horrendous, then the review is often not published.

        1. Yeah, it’s one of the reasons I finally gave up reading audio and gun magazines.

          Besides, these days, half of gun magazines are about somebody’s new AR. This should warrant about 3 lines, not a 6 page write-up.

          1. Photography in gun mags are always top notch, though. I browse them for the sexy pin ups, not for the articles.

          2. Gun magazine reviews are useful for tech specs, but that’s it. I’ve never seen a bad review in a gun mag, and I doubt that I ever will.

      2. Small Arms Review is usually pretty good, although they run the occasional puff piece for Knight’s Armament or others.

        1. The editiring at SAR ispretty bad tjouh.

    2. They already do that with their style of government, from the NYT to the classroom.

  6. In other Esquire news, the Chinese edition of the magazine peddles its news pages to the highest bidder without disclosing anything to readers.

    Do they teach critical thinking in China’s public schools?
    I bet they don’t. Why would the communist government want to teach people to think critically?

    Ancient American Proverb: “Don’t believe anything you hear and only half of what you read.”

    1. Careful Ken, that could be construed as being racist…

      (By others who weren’t taught to think critically, that is.)

      1. Incidentally, I’ve always questioned our public schools’ commitment to teaching critical thinking, too.

        Why would the career bureaucrats who run our schools want to teach future voters and taxpayers to think critically?

        Seems like it would be in their best interest to teach kids to believe what they’re told and to do it, too.

        1. Why would the career bureaucrats who run our schools want to teach future voters and taxpayers to think critically?

          I’d say they do an excellent job of providing reasons to be skeptical of authority. Whether that’s their intention is another matter entirely.

        2. I’d be curious to know what passes for critical thinking in today’s public schools. I’m guessing it doesn’t amount to much.

  7. Thought-Leader Magazines Honors literary, scholarly and professional publications as well as small-circulation general-interest magazines

    The American Scholar; Aperture; IEEE Spectrum; The New Republic; Virginia Quarterly Review

    TNR, the leader for leading thought away from reality.

  8. Is that Ramona from “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World”?

  9. In a story that breaks absolutely no new ground, bribery is not only common in China, it is expected.

  10. I can’t believe I have to login to comment…. why can’t I continue to gambol across the Hit ‘n’ Run comments section, and post anonymously when it’s appropriate?

    1. You have to follow our rules or else.

  11. For every $100,000 Esquire China earns, they can finance 10 apropos of nothing digs against Sarah Palin in an article about belts.

  12. Montreal Canada.

    have been targeted by influence networks and harassed
    since I studied the war on drugs for a University in Europe
    in 2003. Situation came to be worse in Montreal
    (illegal surveillance,threats, extorsion attempts,family members
    assassinations’ threats, orders to move from country to another,
    control over unemployment, extreme repetition, highly organized
    psychological mistreatment, isolation).

    Foreign networks, possibly criminal & intel,
    are active producing these crimes.

    Individual in France said i was in the same case as Guy-Andre Kieffer,
    journalist killed for money laundering.

    The individuals say they have control over
    the medias.

    An agent in a call center stated I already went through a torture
    process. Another,
    illegally gave me the order to go back to Europe and let the person I was
    married with (who has family links with a famous but extremely contrversial
    political family in
    Mexico). Then, years after, I am now told to be targeted
    by networks because I engaged a divorce process.

    I repeat, these events happen in Canada.

    The judiciary background of this Mexican family is known by various Police
    services (France-US-Switzerland-Mexico). I was also said by the Judiciary
    in France to be under Police protection after threats happened.

    search a US-European-Canadian HEAVY WEIGHT LAW FIRM to engage

    These networks are easy to locate.
    Please give info about Law Firm for prosecution

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