Monday, 10 December 2007

Tyler Brûlé and Monocle: Conflict of Interest?

It's not easy writing a weekly column, it's not easy writing a daily blog in fact.

(One of the reasons I am writing about the IHT is to just discover for myself how blogging is done, how easy or not it is and how rewarding as a writer - conclusions to be announced later).

So I am loathe to criticise anyone who does write a weekly column, like Tyler Brûlé.

Tyler Brûlé is an interesting character, as a quick visit to wikipedia will confirm.

I'm not someone who feels comfortable quoting from wikipedia but it tells you where to start.

More reliably, because no doubt Brûlé signed off on it, his bio at the site of the International Speakers Bureau, ( which represents him for speaking fees ranging from US$30-50k (oh look, it's snowing outside my study) makes the claim that "Almost everything you see, read, wear and do has been influenced by Tyler Brule."


I note that someone on wikipedia pointed out that "Brûlé's father does not appear to have used any diacritical marks or accents on the family surname". Having said I don't like to quote wikipedia, I only do so because his bio on the internationalspeakers website doesn't use the marks on his name either. Do they know something we don't or are they going to be in big trouble with Brûlé when he finds out?

(Brûlé himself has made mention of these marks on his name - in the context of complicated hotel bookings, I think it was - in one of his IHT columns.)

Brûlé started his column for the IHT in March, 2007, and it was given big billing by the newspaper.

The column was going to be about (is?) 'urbanism and global navigation'.

(I don't know what urbanism is, other than it is an abstract noun and a legitimate derivative of the word urban, but that's just me.)

The editor of the IHT was very excited, describing Brûlé as 'the wisest, wittiest, guide I know to the increasingly global world [I do always like it when people speak of the 'world' getting increasingly 'global'] of great cities, and the planes, trains and other modes of transport that get our audience from one to another every day of the year.'

Diacritical marks or accents on the name or not, the man is clearly a genius.

Whether he writes well, wittily or about anything interesting is for other readers to decide.

For example:

(Actually I fully agreed with his column this Saturday Let's bring back some Christmas spirit.

What interests me more is the conflict of interest between his column and his business interests.

The press release from the IHT that accompanied the announcement of his column, gave a great deal of unusual space in the 'notes to editors' promoting a magazine called Monocle, which apparently is a 'global media brand that combines print, web and broadcast components. At it's core lies a monthly magazine delivering original coverage in global affairs, business, culture and design.' And which Brûlé started.

The IHT's willingness to promote this brand has continued, with regular adverts in the IHT about the latest or upcoming edition of Monocle, appearing normally on the day of Brûlé's column.

Now, when I worked for the IHT, if the advertising director were to have come to the editor of the IHT and say, look, we've got this global brand as a potential client, and they'll place 24 quarter page adverts a year on the op-ed page IF their MD can write a weekly column for the newspaper, the advertising director would certainly have lost all credibility, and perhaps even his job.

However, things have changed. The back of the book, most notably Roger Collis' interminable column (more on that another time), Brûlé's column and the international life rubric on the back page, along with such things as International Travel Update and Globespotters blog, are all about locking in one of the key advertising sectors that is the bread and butter of the IHT - or at least they would like it to be: travel industry advertising.

If so blatantly promoting a columnists' business interests isn't a conflict of interest between editorial and business (please refer to IHT Mission statement at ) then I don't know what is.

No comments: