PC World CEO seriously injured after falling into credibility gap

If you’ve ever harbored any vague suspicions about the relationship between big, glossy PC magazines and the companies that buy big, glossy advertisements, this will do nothing to increase your confidence. According to multiple sources who talked to Wired, CNet and anyone else who would listen, PC World’s award-winning Editor-in-Chief Harry McCracken has quit the IDG publication because new CEO Colin Crawford was pressuring him to avoid stories critical of major advertisers. Specifically, according to Wired, Crawford wanted McCracken to kill what was described as light-hearted list of gibes titled “Ten Things We Hate About Apple.” Crawford has been CEO at PC World for about a month, coming over after a stint at sister publication MacWorld, where he reportedly had a cozy relationship with Apple CEO Steve Jobs. Coming on top of Crawford’s general dictum to play nice with ad clients, sources said, this was just too much for McCracken, who apparently retains some old-fashioned notions about journalistic credibility.

McCracken wouldn’t go into detail about the dust-up beyond ascribing his departure to “some fundamental disagreements with Colin,” and left his bridges unburned. “I’ve worked at IDG for 16 years. It’s been unbelievably good to me, and I have 10,000 great memories, so I’m not leaving an unhappy person,” he told Wired’s Kim Zetter. But sources inside the mag were not so generous. “Everybody is so proud of Harry but we’re devastated that he’s gone,” one told Zetter. “This is no way to run a magazine. But unfortunately, this looks like an indication of what we’ve got in store (from the new boss).” Another told CNet, “It saddens us all that Harry, a PC World institution, decided to leave. But dammit, we’re proud of him for doing it.”


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  • Badonkadonk

    Give me a break – as cozy as PC World has been with Microsoft for the past twenty years, I fail to see how this is news except in the context that there’s a new, unliked editor.

    PC World (and C|Net) have always been mysteriously kind to major advertisers.

  • Jim H

    Also interesting that the one example cited is a purported censorship by Apple. A certain large near-monopoly has been brown-nosed continuously in the computer press.

  • techweenie


    PC Magazine’s editorial has always been guided by its pocketbook. When Windows was crashing 3X a day for every user, PC Magazine was promoting it — primarily because it required extensive upgrades to every PC then on the market: new graphics card, more memory, bigger drives; improved monitors and of course, new software.

    Let’s see: the productive solution requires no spending. The unstable solution requires (at the time, $4-5,000) expensive upgrades. Well, the expensive upgrade makers will buy ads.

    What do you promote? Just look at PC Magazine from the mid-80s and see whether they chose editorial independence or followed their pocketbook.

  • I can suggest a tune for former Editor-in-Chief Harry McCracken to embrace, along with retaining his refreshingly unique “old fashioned notions about journalistic credibility.” Try the Dixie Chicks’ “Not Ready to Make Nice.” One can speculate that Mr. Crawford’s heavy handed approach smacked too much of the suppression of journalistic integrity that Bill Moyers documented last week as the norm for news coverage of our current administration in Washington, and Harry just didn’t want to be party to similar kowtowing — “..cozy … with Microsoft for 20 years” notwithstanding. Way to go, Harry!!!! I look forward to reading your next editorial – NOT in PC Whirl.

  • Hi folks.

    I am a pc world contributing editor (aka freelancer). before that I was an executive editor. I know of what I speak. and what I know is this:

    pc world (and for that matter pc mag and cnet) have more editorial integrity than the vast majority of magazines out there. they have a clearly defined wall between editorial and advertising (in the biz it’s known as the division between “church and state”). it’s a hard thing, to write about the very companies who advertise in your magazine (and thus pay your salaries) and do it in an objective fashion. but by and large the tech press in the US does this a hellova lot better than, say, the fashion press. (go ahead, try to find a line between church and state at Vogue or Glamour).

    what colin crawford may have done was threaten to tear down that wall. (or not — it’s not entirely clear what happened). what does seem clear is that colin asked harry to do something he felt wasn’t right, and harry — being a guy of the utmost integrity — decided he’d rather quit than compromise his ethics. I’ve known harry for 12+ years, and I know how he thinks. he is loyal to a fault, and has given much of his adult life to pc world. it must have been pretty bad for him to walk.

    as for microsoft, well, they stopped advertising in trade mags a long time ago. certainly not like they used to. so the whole notion that pc world suckles at redmond’s tit is just wrong.

    (and if you want proof, read any of the articles I’ve written for pcworld.com over the past two years. you won’t find much love for microsoft in any of them.)




    Today’s SFO main newspaper has a front pager reporting Apple’s BOD, including Gore and Ballmer, are under intense fire by the company’s stockholders.

    The core of the piece is backdating at Apple.

    Maybe JM just missed this significant development. We know Apple isn’t favored here, right?

  • Hugs

    That’ll be all of PC World and MacWorld when the current subscriptions runs out. Can’t tell which 50% is valid, none of it is worth it paying attention to.

  • James

    To Harry: No good deed goes unpunished… Fortunately for you, quiting was an option. For most of us we just get bulldozed under and forgotten about. I appreciate the fact that at least you tried to do the right thing.

  • Mike

    ONLY ten things to hate about Apple? That Is lame.

  • Robert Luhn

    I’d like to back up Dan Tynan’s comments.

    Like Dan, I’ve had a lonnng association with the magazine. I wrote for PCW when it was still PC Magazine (circa 1982); joined the staff in 1983, where I served as one of the magazine’s first senior editors; was a contributing editor from 1990-1994; and have since written for the magazine off and on over the years.

    About the last thing PCW has been is cozy with Microsoft! (Much less other vendors.) I oversaw much of the Windows coverage for the magazine for years, and believe me, Gates & Co. weren’t fond of our coverage. We never hesitated to smack around a Microsoft product (so many products, so little time!) and back it up with lab and other tests from A to Z. As Dan rightly notes, unlike most magazines, PCW covers the companies that also advertise in the mag…which means the magazine is extremely fussy about that wall between church and state.

    Now, has every article smacked around Microsoft or Dell or whoever? No. Sometimes they actually make good stuff. And sometimes, the tests you run show that, well, the darn thing works better than you thought it would.

    Kind to advertisers? Um, no. Professional, and I like to think, fair? Yes. Believe me, if PCW editors were in the advertisers’ hip pockets, they’d all be driving much nicer cars.

    Harry’s hand on the tiller of PCW will be missed. He was a class act, a pro, and fine journalist.

  • “Ten things we hate about Apple” hardly sounds like an article that’s representative of “old-fashioned notions about journalistic credibility.”

    While I applaud journalistic integrity, I fail to see how advertiser-bashing is either in the magazine’s or the reader’s best interest. Had the article been about “real news” about Apple’s failings (and as a Mac user I know there are lots) I would have been more convinced that the editor’s quitting was a blow for “journalistic credibility.” As it is it looks like he didn’t get to be rude at the family picnic and so took his ball and went home.

  • All these comments about PC Mag and PCW being pro-Windows or some other advertiser reminds me of a comment Bob Costas made about fans who would call in after a game and complain, “I’m a fan of TEAM X. Why are you so pro TEAM Y(the opposition)?”

    Half of the calls would come in that way. And then the other half would come in “I’m a fan of TEAM Y. Why are you so pro TEAM X?”

    If you’re looking for bias, you will find it. Especially if you’ve established yourself a fan of one company (Apple) or operating system (Linux).

    Additional comments on my blog.

  • Rich

    dan said:
    > it’s a hard thing, to write about the
    > very companies who advertise in your
    > magazine (and thus pay your salaries)
    > and do it in an objective fashion. but
    > by and large the tech press in the US
    > does this a hellova lot better than,
    > say, the fashion press.

    Or the UK computing press. I grew up in the UK in the 80s, and finding a US computing magazine on the shelves meant I’d get some accurate journalism.

    Nothing changes: now I live in the US, I’m looking back across the pond for good writing.