A lot of people in person and online today have asked me about the following section of the now famous Microsoft memo "We should have a look at it (the story) in early March, and it should run late March for the April issue." The assumption seems to be that I promised Microsoft a chance to review my story before publication.
My answer: I never show story subjects or anyone outside the magazine a copy of my stories prior to publication, and I never have. Period. I certainly didn’t promise anything like that here either.
What I think the memo refers to is the following: I do routinely fax copies of my stories to story subjects AFTER the magazine has been printed but roughly a week before its official onsale date. Why? Because the magazine is often publicly available on newsstands about a week to 10 days BEFORE the official onsale date.
So all I am doing is making sure that the subjects of my stories are among the first to see it in the magazine - when it is already publicly available - and aren't in a position of responding to someone who has read the story before they have seen it.
I think the source of the confusion here is the assumption that Wired - like a newspaper or weekly magazine - is available immediately after the issue comes off the press. Not true. There are three or four weeks of lag time after the magazine is printed during which the magazine is trucked to newsstands around the country. As a result of this setup, newsstands get the magazine piecemeal. I don't know the roots of this practice, but I suspect it has saved Wired a lot of money over the years.
For example, the current issue about transparency was printed at the end of February, copies started showing up at Wired's offices a week or so later, and I faxed a copy of the story to Microsoft on Tuesday evening March 20, a week ahead of its official onsale date of March 26. Microsoft was actually a little peeved to have gotten a copy so late because the magazine was already widely available on newsstands even then.
So if your conclusion from this is that Wired's official publication date can be different than its practical publication date, you would be correct. But do not conclude I let Microsoft see a prepublication draft of my story. I did not.