5. Do You Regret Playboy Piece?
RCS: About those 5,000 words. On the cover of Playboy Magazine's June 2008 issue, the second most provocative item -- aside from the bikini-clad cover girl -- was a teaser titled "The Black KKK by Jason Whitlock." Most journalists and writers, attracted by more than three million subscribers -- about the same as Newsweek, Sports Illustrated and TV Guide -- jump at the opportunity just to have their work published in Playboy. But you were livid. The 5,000 words you wrote for Playboy were about prison politics and policy, not “The Black KKK.” In fact, the words “Black KKK” never even appeared in the piece.
Since then, we’ve seen many print publication models collapse as well as with a few publications themselves. If even a magazine as naturally provocative as Playboy has to find new, less-than-honest ways to sell magazines, would it have been, upon reflection, more effective to get your message across through an online outlet?
Whitlock: Great, great question. Problem is I liked the Playboy platform because guys in the joint read Playboy and generally don't have access to the Internet. I wanted the piece to resonate with people inside those institutions. Print publications are desperate for relevancy and traction. It seems like once every other month some print magazine will put something on its cover specifically to create controversy, especially racial controversy. I wish I had chosen a different print publication. But Playboy contacted me. In retrospect, they chose me because they know I'm not afraid of racial controversy. They let me pick my topic and probably just assumed what I'd write. I gave 'em something better than what they expected, so rather than kick it back, they just went with their preconceived presentation, which included a house-written sidebar that had nothing to do with what I wrote. You live and learn.