Why a Top Medical Journal Ousted Its Editor

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What happens when the irresistible forces of marketing meet an immovable object of editorial purity? A clash at the highest levels — and in the case of the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine, the resignation of its top editor, Dr. Jerome P. Kassirer. According to several reports, Kassirer was asked to step down because of his long-standing opposition to "branding" — plugging new magazines and newsletters as coming "from the publishers of the New England Journal of Medicine" — which his bosses desired. The Journal, which is owned by the Massachusetts Medical Society, is one of the nation’s most renowned and rigorously edited scientific publications, with a circulation of 240,000.

That the entire issue of marketing and brand extension should stir the rather esoteric corner of medical publishing is "very intriguing," says TIME medical columnist Christine Gorman. Kassirer’s opposition should not be surprising, she reports. "He has a reputation of being a purist. He believes the way you remain influential is by remaining exclusive." The Massachusetts Medical Society apparently believes otherwise.