ZALES VS. TEXAS MONTHLY: THE BAN THAT BACKFIRED

Perhaps never before has a Texas magazine received so much free publicity as Texas Monthly has, courtesy of Dallas’ Zale Corporation, which kicked the magazine’s June issue off the stands at Skillern’s, owned by Zale. Zale officials privately maintain that Texas Monthly deceived them into thinking that the magazine’s story about Zale’s would deal relatively little with the Shearn Rovin-sky scandal. To the contrary, Texas Monthly’s editor and publisher claim that they never deceived Zale officials into thinking the story would largely ignore Rovinsky.

Several months ago editor Bill Broyles told the story’s author, Harry Hurt III, that he wanted a story about Zale. “So much had been written about the Zale-Rovinsky situation,” Broyles said, “that we wanted a story written a-bout the apple, not just the worm. We wanted a story a-bout the entire corporation’s history and future.” Hurt spent several months researching the story, with cooperation from Zale’s top executives. The result is either a worm or an apple depending upon whom you talk to.

Publisher Mike Levy says he thought so much of the Zale story that he sent 10 copies of the magazine, fresh off the press, to Bob Bloom, whose agency handles the Zale account and who earlier had called Levy to express his fears about the story’s content. Within days, Bloom arrived in Austin, accompanied by the agency’s founder, Sam Bloom, to complain to Levy and Broyles. “I appreciated their coming in person to express their displeasure,” Broyles said, “but I still don’t think we misled them. It’s not our fault the Zale story doesn’t have a happy ending.”

Publisher Levy points out that almost every negative thing in the Zale story has been written before. “Without our story none of the positive stuff about the Zale history and organization would have been published,” Levy said. Publicly Zale officials maintain that they bounced the issue from Skillern’s because if they didn’t, failure to do so could later damage their effectiveness in a libel suit, if they choose to file one. Whether the move resulted from legal strategy or a corporate temper tantrum, most observers agree it did the magazine more good (in publicity) than harm (in sales).

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