Editorial January 2001 Issue

Family Squabble

Occasionally, we disagree. It’s all for the good.

For me, one of the best things about working for Belvoir Publications (WDJ’s publisher) is that the company has a long history of and a dedication to consumer-oriented, advocacy journalism. In other words, because Belvoir magazines accept no advertising, Belvoir editors are free to examine and truthfully critique products without fear of losing income from offended advertisers. We are allowed to take informed but subjective editorial positions (and defend them!) on any subject that is of concern to our readers.

This is a liberating position for me and my fellow editors; in most publication offices, writers and editors are constantly warned to remain carefully “objective” in print, no matter what our real opinions are. Understand, kowtowing to advertisers is taught to journalists early. I’ll never forget my first editorial meeting at the huge national parents’ magazine where I interned while I was getting my Bachelor’s degree in journalism many moons ago. An argument broke out between the editorial staff (on one side) and the publisher and ad saleswomen (on the other) regarding an article titled, “Family Flapjacks.” The author of the article had written that if you can afford to splurge for real maple syrup to pour over the pancakes on special occasion breakfasts, you should do it. The ad staff, who had sold full color, full page advertising to an (artificially maple-flavored) syrup company, wanted those lines stricken from the story. The power of advertising dollars is formidable and insidious.

Fortunately, I don’t have to deal with any of that anymore. It’s wonderful. Not only do I get to take a stand on issues in the dog world, I am encouraged and supported by my publishers to do so.

Usually, this is appreciated by our readers. Most people who subscribe to one of the 28 Belvoir Publications’ magazines because they value our (hopefully) informed and (absolutely) independent opinions.

Of course, not everyone who reads our opinions agrees with them!

WDJ has a dual focus – holistic health care and non-violent training. We find that these things work well together, and many of our readers agree. But some people admit that they subscribe specifically for information about one of those areas, and disagree with our positions in the other area. They embrace holistic care, but they think clicker training is for the birds. Or they love our gentle training tips, but prefer to leave raw diets and such to the wolves. (Of course, if they don’t appreciate either focus, they subscribe to something else!) Generally, these folks can just flip past the material they don’t like to something that they do.

Once in a long while, though, one of our strong positions on some subject aggravates someone who usually really likes us – so much so that they can no longer appreciate us at all. And guess what? We did that recently.

In the particular case I’m talking about, the person we annoyed was someone we like and respect, someone who has contributed valuable information to this very publication. We feel we owe this person an opportunity to publicly disagree with us. We know she is not alone; we’re sure there are other readers who agree with her. So we’re going to air the arguments on both sides of the issue – just a little – and let you make up your own minds. Check out “A Buzz About E-Collars” on page 20. I don’t think we’ll ever sell our viewpoints on the subject to our esteemed (former?) associate, and goodness knows we’re not convinced of the superiority of her views. But that’s okay. The important thing is to stay respectful, kind, patient, and open-minded – that’s our New Year’s resolution.

-Nancy Kerns

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