Learn from SELF Magazine’s Mistake

We are all human, we all make mistakes — and as journalists we have the misfortune of having our mistakes aired to our entire distribution area… and sometimes beyond if it is picked up by social media. I’ve had my own set of corrections over the course of my career. And you know what? I expect there will be more because I am human, I make mistakes. The best we can do is learn from our shortcomings and try not to repeat the same mistake.

And in the case of SELF magazine, they are going to have plenty of mistakes to think on in the coming days as they face a huge PR debacle after mocking a cancer patient and her friend for wearing tutus to marathon for motivation purposes. Newspapers and other print publications are held to a high degree, and it is our job to get our facts straight and dig into a topic before taking an article, or in this case photo, to print. Albeit, this line has been stretched thin with the advent of social media and the need to get news out first. However, SELF can’t even use that excuse when it comes to why they placed Monika Allen and her friend’s photo on its BS meter with the caption: “People think these froufrou skirts make you run faster. Now, if you told us they made people run away from you faster, maybe we would believe it.”

Not only is Allen a cancer patient, but her business, Glam Runner, which makes those “froufrou skirts,” donates money from the tutus to a charity called Girls on the Run San Diego. The charity is a program geared toward girls in the third through 8th grade and seeks to inspire them to be joyful, healthy and confident. Oops.

After Allen took to Glam Runner’s Facebook page, word spread quickly, getting picked up by local and national news agencies. Not only had they chosen to pick on a cancer survivor, they had also failed to relay how they intended to use the photo to the photo’s owner, another face-palm moment. And as news spread, SELF magazine quickly took to action to stop the hemorrhaging. Only the publication’s Editor in Chief Lucy Danziger might have just dug the hole deeper when she told USA Today: “I am personally mortified. I had no idea that Monika had been through cancer. It was an error. It was a stupid mistake. We shouldn’t have run the item.”

So you are saying that if she had not been a cancer patient, it would be alright? SELF magazine markets itself as a women’s magazine that promotes health and well-being, causing this snafu to make it look hypocritical since they should not be shaming women on their BS meter to begin with. Instead, they should be building up women, and in fact, if they had dug deeper, they would have discovered a story fit for their cover… sad really. Also if they had dug a little deeper they would have learned a little bit about runner culture.

I myself am not a runner, but I admire those who can complete 5Ks and so on; I also know a little bit about runner culture. For some marathons, dressing up in fun costumes is the name of the game, and for those that don’t require it, runners will often dress up anyways. For some the costume just inspires or motivates; it also adds to the marathon experience, adding a further depth of fun. Allen was well in her rights to dress up like Wonder Woman, because you know what, she is Wonder Woman. The fact that she was able to finish that race in between chemo is nothing short of incredible.

If there is any plus from SELF’s slip up, it is that Glam Runner and Girls on the Run San Diego will have garnered a lot of press and support. As for SELF, hopefully they will learn from this mistake and make good. On its Facebook page, SELF is already been attempting to make good, issuing the following response: “On behalf of SELF, we sincerely apologize for our inadvertent insensitivity. I have personally reached out to Monika and her supporters online to apologize for the misstep and tell them we are trying to remedy the situation. At SELF we support women such as Monika; she is an inspiration and embodies the qualities we admire. We have donated to her charity and have offered to cover her good work in a future issue. We wish her all the best on her road to good health. Most sincerely, Lucy Danziger.

But if the responses to that post are any indicator, SELF has a long uphill struggle to recover from this PR fail.


Published by smwright

Sarah Wright is the author of The Heritage Lost Series and several other works of speculative fiction. Professionally, she works as a staff writer and editor at a newspaper/magazine company. She enjoys interweaving her love of history into her writing, even in the most fantastic settings.

One thought on “Learn from SELF Magazine’s Mistake

  1. You make a good point that I think people sometimes forget. We are not without flaw, and things like this sometimes happen. The most important thing is how we respond to our mistakes. Owning up to them and handling the situation is a respectful manner is the usually the best thing a person can do. But, like in this case, recovery from such a mistake, since it’s aired to the world, can take some time.

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