Social Media Nightmares Marathon Runner's Edition: The Monika Allen Story
SELF Magazine, which purports to be a "magazine for women that specializes in health, fitness, nutrition, beauty and happiness"(1) asks marathon runner and cancer survivor Monika Allen for permission to use a photo of herself in an article, saying only that they were looking for photos of runners wearing tutus.
Allen, who was recently diagnosed with incurable brain cancer BUT RAN A MARATHON ANYWAY!!! said yes, assuming that her photo would be used in a positive way. SELF Magazine then publishes an article called "The BS Meter" which makes fun of Allen and other runners wearing tutus. Their art department and entire editorial department somehow miss that one of the two women pictured has "DIE TUMOR DIE" emblazoned across her chest.
NBC 7 interviews Allen and tells the world about her story(2). It goes viral, attracting attention from The Huffington Post(3) and other news organizations and blogs. Wil Wheaton, beloved guru to the nerd masses, tweets:
SELF Magazine makes a half-hearted attempt an an apology(4), but neglects to mention any remorse about how they misled Allen into the use of the photo. They are "mortified," but what they are mortified about is that they had "no idea that Monika had been through cancer." Of course, what the viral web hates more than anything else are insincere or incomplete apologies. The flames rise a little higher and SELF starts to feel the heat.
SELF Magazine pulls the "BS Meter" section from future editions of the magazine and posts an article to their blog, called "My Conversation with the Awesome Monika Allen." In it, editor-in-chief Lucy Danziger, actually sits down with and interviews Allen to get the rest of the story.
"We messed up," Danziger writes. "SELF's April issue ran an item making fun of running tutus and used a picture of one truly amazing woman who makes them and wears them.... Today I spent some time talking with Monika Allen about her charity work, her disease, and yes, her tutus, but most importantly how we could work together to create a positive message as a result of this negative incident."
Danziger goes on to say that the offending article "should never have run," and that they are discontinuing the page in future issues of SELF. "Monika told me today that she felt we had taken a bullying approach, and she wished our item was more positive and encouraging," Danziger continues. "I agreed. Then we talked about ways to shed light on her important work and amazing attitude."
SELF Magazine did a good thing here with their latest blog article, the full text of which can be found at the SOURCE link below. It remains to be seen whether the viral web will accept Danziger's apology, given that it still makes no mention of or any apology for how SELF Magazine misled Allen and her business partner and friend, Taramae Baize, who was also pictured in the photo.
If SELF Magazine is sincerely interested in "moving forward, together" with cancer survivors, marathon runners, and viral web supporters alike, they need to make a complete apology that honestly examines the poor practice of misleading people into the use of their photo. They knew full well that if they told Allen exactly how her photo would be used, she would never have given permission. That issue can't be covered up if this is to move in a direction that benefits the magazine. If they meet it openly and honestly, this may continue to move in a positive direction for all involved. If not, well... the nightmare will probably continue. In either case, we'll keep following the story here!
- Wikipedia, "SELF Magazine."
- NBC 7 San Diego, "Magazine Makes Fun of Cancer Survivor's Tutu."
- Huffington Post, "SELF Magazine Shames Cancer Survivor for Running Marathon in a 'Lame' Tutu."
- NBC 7 San Diego, "SELF Magazine Editor Apologizes to Tutu-Wearing Cancer Survivor."
- SELF Magazine, "My Conversation with the Awesome Monika Allen."