I’m embroiled in a discussion, mostly in my own mind and somewhat on the SFReader.com forums, about whether a small press editor should publish his or her own work in his or her magazine.
If it is publishable content, then I see NO problem doing so. Yes, many editors and writers lack the objectivity to decide on the merits of their own work; however, I posit that this condition is neither ubiquitous nor as debilitating as certain persons seem to believe. It is no more an untenable obstacle than having to turn down one’s friends or relatives; for most, it is easier to say ‘no, it’s not good enough’ to ourselves than to our friends and family.
It makes no difference to me when I look at a small press magazine, or any other for that matter, who was published for what reason. I’m going to assess the content the same way I do for stories and poems included in my own lit-zine, Prism Quarterly. Is it worthy of the paper and ink it’s printed on? Do I resent wasting five minutes of my time; if so, is this just my taste or is it my professional opinion of the work’s weakness/strength ratio? How well does it fit its own context and that of the publication?
These things matter. Not names. Not resumes. Not affiliations with this or that person within the editor’s or publisher’s office.
It has been my experience that the people who find this inapropriate are frustrated writers who feel that they got a raw-deal rejection from one or more publishers and/or editors who happened to use their own work to fill their TOC for any number of reasons. And perhaps a few frustrated writers without the audacity to print their own works because they fear the (rightfully) more stringent criticism aimed at those who do publish their own work in their own publications. And, maybe, to be forgiving, a few upstart editors who believe that all readers really are biased against such journals and magazines because their mentor in the biz told them it was so.
HOWEVER. I would question the use of the editor’s material if he is paid for the content in addition to any regular compensation he obtains. That, I feel, would be less than on the up-and-up.