City Desk

Washingtonian Publisher Has “Liable” Concerns

Last month, Washingtonian began preparations for its Best of Washington/Worst of Washington issue.

The mag's staffers received a memo soliciting suggestions for the Best-of, Worst-of reader's poll. It was a pretty straightforward affair, outlining the categories that the Washingtonian used last year and merely asking for input.

Well, some input was on its way–straight from the desk of Washingtonian President and Publisher Cathy Merrill Williams (CMW). Here's what the honcho contributed to the dialogue:

Gang – it would be great if we could think of some "worsts" that were less people oriented (from a potential liable perspective). Things like worst traffic back up spot, worst time to visit a museum, etc.

Now, let's take that short message apart:

  • "it would be great if we could..."—Here, CMW is borrowing a page from the Bill Lumbergh manual of employee motivation.
  • "if we could think of some "worsts" that were less people oriented"—Hold on, now: Is Washingtonian, via a publisher's edict, bagging the edgy, take-no-prisoners editorial approach of recent decades?

    No, says CMW via e-mail: "Focusing more on places was a suggestion. Really nothing in the list has changed and there are still a number of people in the mix."

  • "from a potential liable perspective"—"Liable" suits drain time and resources from any proud publication, including the Washingtonian. Hell, not even good "liable" liability insurance can protect your publication from the ravages of a contentious "liable" suit.

    E-mails CMW: "my mental spellcheck was broken that day."

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  • Jean

    Bubbleheaded publishers (and their lawyers): please go away. Publications avoiding "offense" at all costs is what is driving people away from newspapers and magazines. How can you not already know that? Worst time to go to a museum? C'mon now.

    As for "liable," in most cases, I would write it off is a forgivable mistake. But surrounded as it is by pure stupidity, I think she may well have thought it was the right word.

  • bobh

    You're not really going to nitpick every misspelling in internal memos, are you? Because that would make your blog even duller, if possible.