Readers’ editor: Inserts in the print issue

deputy chair of MJA on stage (1)If you shake the current print issue of The BMJ, a cluster of inserts fall to the ground, among them a wine club promotion, an online menswear retailer, and a charity appeal from the Refugee Council.

Sometimes readers do challenge the accuracy of information in these inserts, or question our decision to accept money from organisations whose views they do not agree with.

Last year, for example, a reader complained about an insert from the organisation Campaign for Dignity in Dying, which wants to legalise assisted dying in the UK, subject to certain safeguards.

We told the reader who contacted us to complain that a different issue of the journal had carried a leaflet for Care Not Killing, which campaigns for more and better palliative care, and to ensure that existing laws against euthanasia and assisted suicide are not weakened or repealed.

In our response, we told the complainant: A ‘battle of the leaflets’ may not be readers’ idea of a balanced debate, but in the case of this particular issue we have run a range of articles arguing both sides of the debate.”

Inserts are subject to the same rules which we apply to print and online display advertising. In other words, they must be “legal, decent, and truthful, and comply with the relevant laws, regulations, and industry codes for the geographic area in which they appear.” You can find out more at this link on The BMJ website.

Before an insert is accepted we ensure that its content complies with the conditions outlined above. In July last year, for example, we asked an agency to substantiate claims made in a leaflet for the charity Medical Aid for Palestinians before we agreed to accept it.

Inserts serve the same purpose as advertising and sponsorship. They provide revenue to pay salaries and other overheads, and support initiatives such as open access. In addition, they provide a way for advertisers to reach our audience without filling the journal itself with advertising.

We now have a section on The BMJ website which will offer the digital equivalent of print inserts. Our Hosted content  section explains more.

David Payne is digital editor, The BMJ, and readers’ editor.