Earlier this week, Jezebel wrote a pretty scathing report on how a Lucky Magazine writer misconstrued a reader’s quote, which later found its way into the magazine. They printed the full email exchange between reader Rosemary Avance and writer Bobby Schuessler, which has started quite the controversy.
Here’s the gist of what happened:
Avance won a dress through Lucky Breaks back in February, and was scheduled to receive it in June. Schuessler reached out to her before she received the prize, and asked her for a quote about where she would wear the dress, and how great it was to win. Avance explained she couldn’t comment because she had yet to receive the dress, but when pressed, said it would be okay for Lucky to say that she “looks forward to wearing it dancing with girlfriends,” though she did stipulate that they could not say she had worn it yet.
Much to Avance’s surprise and dismay, the quote that made it into the magazine, beside her photo and full name, was this:
“I’ve won a few small prizes in my life, but nothing compares to winning this gorgeous dress by Jahaanara! The designer custom-made it for me, so it fits perfectly. I’ve worn it out to dinner with my husband and out dancing with my girlfriends— and I’ll be wearing it to an upcoming wedding. Thanks, Lucky Breaks!”
For anyone who has ever worked at a magazine, this is probably not all that shocking. Indeed, one of Jezebel’s commentors, ‘laureltreedaphne’, wrote “I worked in magazines and can see fairly clearly how this happened.” She added that while it’s pretty standard for magazines to make up quotes, Schuessler should have emailed Avance one last time to confirm it was okay to run the highly-finessed quote. “I used to write fake quotes for people all the time,” she wrote, “But I ALWAYS got them approved.”
The truth is, that many magazines have to cobble together and stylize quotes in order to meet long-lead deadlines and to fit text into a specific space on the page–a fact that Lucky says the winner was well aware of. A spokesperson from the magazine told us:
“We regularly highlight the winners to bring the sweepstakes to life, and they are contacted in advance to coordinate their inclusion, as was the case in this situation. Our editor communicated the nature of the quotes, as well as the magazine’s lead time, both of which were understood by the winner.”
Jezebel then goes on to quote a “friend and high-ranking fashion editor” who said “I don’t think people know how much MONEY both the designer and the magazine are making off the quote. That amount of space in a magazine costs money. If it was a celebrity, they’d be paid an endorsement fee. So misconstruing the quote is essentially false, unpaid advertising.
The idea that the quote would be considered a commercial endorsement–and that the magazine and the designer would make money off of it–is completely false. Celebrities and readers alike are not paid to give quotes to magazines. If they were, every magazine would be bankrupt by now. The one exception, however, would be if the quote in question appeared in an ad or advertorial–which it didn’t.
“We don’t make money off of Lucky Breaks,” Lucky‘s executive editor Deb Schwartz said, emphasizing that the giveaways are never part of advertising. She added that in the ten years since Lucky Breaks launched, the magazine has given over 200,000 prizes (valued at over 13 million dollars), and this is the first complaint they’ve ever received.
“We’re very sorry [Avance] had a bad experience,” Schwartz said. “Lucky Breaks is an important part of the magazine and people are attached to it for good reason, because it delivers so much and you can’t find it anywhere else. We’ve always been committed to our readers–they’re part of the experience and we’re in a constant dialogue [with them].”
Was Bobby Schuessler careless and unprofessional? Totally. But so is in the insinuation that Lucky is making money off of a fudged quote. So is all this outrage warranted? What’s your take?