I was having lunch with a new freelancer a while ago, and we were talking about restaurant reviews. "I assume you get your meals comped," he said.
"Nope," I replied. "We always pay our own way."
The writer, a seasoned pro with decades of magazine experience, paused over his panini. "Really? Wow, that's unusual. But good for you."
On the subject of payola Down East takes the absolutist position. Our editors, writers, and photographers always pay for our own meals and lodging, and we never accept free gifts — as tempting as some of them are. This policy is the only way to safeguard our editorial integrity.
The same goes for advertising. Everywhere you look these days the lines between advertising and journalism are getting blurrier and blurrier. But at Down East we have a solid wall that separates the two. Taking out an ad in this magazine buys you only . . . an ad. Unfortunately, many magazines don't have this strict separation of "church and state," and so readers are understandably suspicious. They'll look at an article like our piece on L.L. Bean's resurgence (page 52) and say, "I wonder how much Bean paid for that story." The answer is zero, zip, zilch, and nada. We did the article because it was news worth reporting.
This isn't just a matter of good ethics; it's also good business. Readers who don't trust Down East don't remain readers for very long. We feel it's important for you to know that when we praise a restaurant, it's because we had an excellent meal there (anonymously, by the way). We can't guarantee that you will, too, but at least you can rest assured that our article came with no strings attached.
This special issue of Down East is devoted to the subject of "Making Money in Maine," which is what got me thinking about our anti-payola policy in the first place. Maine has a reputation — partly deserved — of being a hard place to earn a buck. And there's no denying that the state could be more business friendly. But, as you'll discover in this issue, there are also success stories to be told, and most of them seem to be based on traditional Maine values: quality products, personal service, and trust.
Holding true to these values is how Down East has remained in business for fifty-two years. And, yes, we've even made some real money along the way. Which, when you think about it, is worth a lot more than a free panini.