The two top editors at Outdoor Life magazine resigned in protest this week after executives at the magazine's corporate owner canceled a scheduled article criticizing a controversial hunting practice.
Editor in Chief Stephen W. Byers and Executive Editor Will Bourne resigned Thursday after executives at Times Mirror Co., which owns the magazine and also publishes The Times, pulled the story about bear baiting that would have run in the September issue.
Some activists and scientists have sharply attacked bear baiting, in which hunters use raw fish or meat to lure black bears into open areas. The practice is illegal in some places.
The decision to kill the story was made by Jason Klein, president of Outdoor Life and senior vice president of Times Mirror magazines, after consulting with Efrem Zimbalist III, president and chief executive of the magazine division, and with Jim Zumbo, hunting editor of Outdoor Life, according to a Times Mirror spokeswoman.
Klein, who could not be reached for comment, acted following vigorous protests by hunters' rights groups that had learned of the planned article by Colorado biologist Tom Beck. But the spokeswoman said outside pressure had nothing to do with the decision.
"Outdoor Life is committed to providing balanced and informed coverage of hunting ethics and practices," the spokeswoman said. "The article in question did not meet this standard." She added that the article might run in the future, however, when it would be accompanied by another story offering a different viewpoint.
Byers and Bourne could not be reached for comment Friday. However, Byers told the New York Times, which first reported the resignations in Friday editions, that the issue was one of editorial integrity. "It was one of those situations where you either sucked it up and quit or you don't and are forced to live with yourself and represent something that you think is essentially gutless," he was quoted as saying.
Outdoor Life, which is the nation's second-largest hunting magazine after Field & Stream (also owned by Times Mirror), had a December 1995 circulation of 1.35 million, off almost 10% from the same period a year earlier.