By now, a good chunk of the online world has heard of VegNews substituting supposed photos of vegan food with meaty counterparts – thanks in large part to far-reaching coverage by CNN, NPR, AFP, NY Times, Gizmodo, Gothamist, and others.
In the wake of the scandal being blown wide open by QuarryGirl, one of our own, Michael Parrish Dudell, wrote a great article coming to the defense of the embattled mag. While I agree with much of what he said, I firmly believe that the magazine’s reaction to the controversy has come up short.
Perhaps most disappointing to people, including myself, has been the clam shell policy of VN since issuing their “response letter” a day after the news broke. The vegan community is not only very passionate, but also very tight. There’s lots of love there, as well as trust, and in comments posted hundreds of times, many have been more bewildered it seems by a lack of open dialogue than by the actual crime itself.
Being humbled sucks – and there have been many times on this site when we’ve screwed up on due diligence involving something and have had to put our pride aside and ask for forgiveness. The fact that VegNews is continuing business as normal (and, in fact, posted another non-vegan photo yesterday to their Facebook page) is regarded as ignoring the concerns of its audience. And let’s face it, we’re nothing without our readers, something it takes years to build in terms of trust and dialogue.
I know there are many, many out there that still love VegNews – love their reporting, the people involved, and respect everything they’ve done for the veg scene these 11 years – but are having trouble getting over the silence. It’s almost as if there’s a machine at work here instead of the soulful passion so prevalent in the vegan scene – and so very often represented on their pages.
There’s another aspect of this issue that VegNews has failed to consider and that’s social media. Hell hath no fury like a vegan scorned and with every subsequent issue published, the magazine is risking a witch hunt over every photograph, posted on blog sites, Twitter, and discussed ad nauseum on the company’s Facebook page. In other words, this outrage will linger for a very long time the more VegNews chooses not to address it with more sensitivity.
I agree that they’re just photos and that these things are expensive – but I also understand the viewpoint of people who subscribe to a vegan magazine expecting vegan content. I guess my question to VegNews is: Do you really want people second-guessing your content all the time? Every month?
My suggestion is to open the doors of dialogue and invite the lashes. Earning that trust back won’t happen overnight, but it won’t happen at all if an apology isn’t offered and a road to making the magazine even better laid out. Everyone screws up, sometimes in a dramatic international news-making way, but that doesn’t mean it can’t also be an opportunity to grow. Let your readers help.