In the midst of the Golfweek saga, which culminated in the firing of editor Dave Seanor for his decision to put a noose on the cover of the January 16 issue of the weekly magazine, the turning point may have involved one of the magazine’s biggest advertisers.
According to a source familiar with the events, the decision to fire Seanor came after TaylorMade, the giant golf manufacturer and one of Golfweek’s biggest advertisers, told magazine executives it would yank its advertising from the publication. Two sources stated that the golf company said it would pull $1.5 million from the publication, but a TaylorMade spokesman, Scott Lightman refused to confirm the figure or that the action had been taken. He described the talks between TaylorMade and Golfweek as “private business conversations” and said the company would have no further comment.
Ultimately, company might merely sit out an issue or few while the firestorm dissipates.
The loss of revenue (whatever amount it may be) is a major blow to the 160,000 circulation publication, and staffers are concerned that other major advertisers, including Nike and Titleist, may follow. An executive at Golfweek said no other advertisers had thus far spoken with the magazine about pulling its ads.
This all happened on Friday, according to the source, as Golfweek owner Rance Crain – the president of Crain’s Communications and owner of Turnstile Publishing, Golfweek’s parent – tried to dissuade the golf giant from tacking the action. Once his efforts failed, Crain ordered the firing of Seanor.
Additionally, I learned a bit more about how the publishing of the cover went down. A former editor at the New York Post, Seanor was widely known for his edgy approach to journalism. As a reader of my blog posted on a previous item, he once lost his job at the magazine after Callaway Golf pulled its advertising in the wake of a column written by Seanor that was critical of golf icon (and Callaway endorser) Arnold Palmer. The column was headlined: “Benedict Arnold.”
The “noose” cover, in fact, might have been even worse than what was finally published. The original rendition, according to sources, featured a photo-manipulated image of Golf Channel analyst Kelly Tilghman – who uttered the now-infamous “lynch him in a back alley” remark regarding how today’s young players should handle the dominance of Tiger Woods – with her head in a noose.
Staffers throughout the publication were said to have argued vehemently against the use of that image for several days. In his exclusive interview with Yahoo! Sports, Seanor was clearly not totally forthcoming about the options under consideration: ” We put together two or three different images of either Kelly or a noose. We did rough mock-ups that sat taped to the outside of a cubicle for a couple of days. They had either different photos of nooses or Kelly’s picture.”
Not just “Kelly’s picture,” but Kelly’s picture with her head in a noose!
[Seanor also said something that was utterly ignorant. He said. ” [staffer] raised flags that this could stir something up among a certain element of people who might read it one way or the other…” Excuse me? a “certain element of people?” What is that supposed to mean? To my knowledge, that “certain element,” included just about everyone who saw the cover, who, at minimum asked: “What were they thinking?”]
After Seanor decided against using the image with Kelly’s head in the noose, staffers were said to BE so drained from the process that there was little energy left to argue against using the cover that eventually was published.
While it’s not an excuse for publishing the image, it is a relief to hear that most of the folks at Golfweek were against using the noose. Though it does not mitigate the need for the magazine to make real efforts to diversify its staff.
Firing Seanor was a necessary move. But just as in golf – where the most important shot is your next shot not your last one – the editors and owners of the publication still have some work to do – not just to pursue other advertisers not to defect but to rebuild its credibility within the industry and among golf fans.
Golfweek, you’re on the tee.