Would you avoid criticizing your advertisers?

Today, it was said that PC World’s Editor-in-Chief, Harry McCracken, quit his job because of management avoidance of stories that were critical of advertisers. Here’s the thing. This is pretty much the same story as the whole Digg fiasco.
Understandably, these magazines and such depend on the support of advertisers to do their business. But without readership, you would have no advertisers. Readers are your customers also, and even more so when they are looking for an unbiased point-of-view. I believe that as a opinion writer or guru of any type, you have a duty to provide that viewpoint. If the advertiser has something that is worth noting, then note it: good or bad. That’s what keeps the readers.
Let’s look at it another way. Recently I started thinking about a product I happened to come across. I wrote a preview of it or review or what not. If you look at the web statistics of it, there were a lot of people that read it. But the overall vibe was more negative than positive the more I thought about it while writing. You know what the funny thing is? People still bought the product. It’s all about your experiences, good or bad, and to let people know that it does happen. Perhaps you had a terrible experience with one advertiser’s products, but someone else didn’t. But the fact is that it could have been that one in a million hardware fluke. But it DID happen to you, so why avoid it? People want to know that there is that one in a million chance. That’s why people read reviews. If they wanted you to just talk up a product, they’d go to the marketing website by the manufacturer.
I wish the best to Harry McCracken. His decision surely was not an easy one to make. But the management at IDG need to realize that avoiding a short-term problem could lead to long-term disaster. Because of the above, I think the loyalty should still remain in the readers and not the advertisers. Advertisers might have deeper pockets, but if they have a thick skin, then they’ll do what Dell did with their little incident with Jeff Jarvis and turn it around in their favor.
Perhaps I’m alone in this opinion, but I believe that being honest with your readers will prove more useful in the long run. Open-minded advertisers will also see this as an opportunity to fix whatever problems they face since not everyone can be critical about their own company.
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