About 25 years ago, when I was Pensions & Investments' managing editor, the advertising sales director breezed through Chicago on a visit from New York. He found the page proofs for the next issue, and suggested I change this headline or that word.
I was furious. I still remember the gist of what I told him: “Keep your hands off editorial. If you're ever the publisher, then you can meddle. But until then, leave us alone.”
Six months later, he became publisher of P&I, and he never mentioned that confrontation.
The ad director-turned-publisher is Bill Bisson, who since has become group publisher and editorial director of the financial group of publications owned by Crain Communications Inc., P&I's parent.
Now, 33 years after joining Crain, Bill is retiring this month. Many at Crain will miss him, but probably none more than I.
That's because Bill turned out to be the strongest proponent of the separation of editorial and advertising of any publisher I have known.
One example: A reporter and an ad salesman decided to share a taxi when they discovered while hailing cabs that they were attending the same analysts' lunch. Bill heard about the shared cab and blew a gasket. There is a Chinese wall separating editorial from advertising, he reminded the staff, and sharing a cab violated this principle.
Doing everything in his power to keep that wall standing is classic Bill Bisson.
Since Bill joined the publishers' ranks, there have been times when I have felt P&I's editorial integrity has been threatened by outsiders. Each time, I have called Bill for help. Each time, Bill has foiled those attacks on editorial's independence.
Bill Bisson's sense of what's right has been instilled in the rest of the staff, ensuring that long after his name is gone from the masthead, Pensions & Investments will continue to deliver unbiased and balanced news and information to our readers.