In his latest New York Times column, Joe Nocera marks yet another another chip in the Chinese Wall between editorial and advertising (which in truth is resembling the Berlin Wall circa 1990 more and more).

The Fall of the Wall?

On Wednesday night, I bumped into Norman Pearlstine at a charity dinner. He smiled his inscrutable smile and made the smallest of small talk. He looked off into space and seemed otherwise occupied.

Which, it turns out, he was. The next morning came the announcement that Pearlstine was leaving the Bloomberg media empire to return to his old haunt, Time Inc., where he had been editor in chief from 1995 to 2005. This time around at Time Inc., his title is chief content officer.

That’s a lot different, Nocera notes, from Pearlstine’s former position as editor in chief, whose job has traditionally been “to maintain the wall that was supposed to separate the editorial staff from the business-side staff.”

That job has been obsoleted, apparently.

Elsewhere, the Timeniks have been saying all the right things.

From Advertising Age:

Understanding Time Inc.’s New Editorial Order

Structure Won’t Undermine Journalism, CEO Joe Ripp Says

Storied magazine publisher Time Inc. surprised its editors on Thursday by assigning them to report to division presidents instead of an editorial executive, leading some to wonder whether business interests would now trump those of edit.

Time Inc. CEO Joe Ripp said the restructuring will make the publisher of Time, People, Sports Illustrated and Fortune more innovative and entrepreneurial. “We are not only going to be respecting our traditions enormously, but setting the company to move forward,” Mr. Ripp said.

Pearlstine, for his part, says Time Inc. is catching up with the media business. “Frankly, it’s more consistent with not only the print industry, but digital and broadcast and the rest of media,” he told Ad Age.

Consistent, maybe. Confidence-building, not so much.

Just ask Joe Nocera, who quizzed Pearlstine about “[t]he fact that the magazine’s managing editors will report not only to him, but also to a business executive.”

He praised the model being developed by Forbes magazine, which includes “sponsored” content alongside the work of its staff writers. He said that the business side would not be able to hire an editor unless he went along with it.

And maybe he’ll turn out to be right. The more likely outcome, though, is that the much-vaunted Church-State divide at Time Inc. is dead.

May it rest in peace.

Or, more likely, in pieces.

John R. Carroll is media analyst for NPR's Here & Now and senior news analyst for WBUR in Boston. He also writes at Campaign Outsider and It's Good to Live in a Two-Daily Town.
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