Publish and be damned

Since Cranked #26 hit the newsstands a bit over a month ago, we’ve noticed a (small) uptick in subscription cancellations. It could just be a blip, but then again we also received a (very polite) email from one of the cancellers which suggests that there might be a bit more to it than that. Here’s the relevant paragraph:

“There were a good few pages in the latest issue dedicated to ‘Trans’. Everyone is entitled to their opinion of course, and I didn’t read [it] … but I just didn’t feel comfortable effectively sponsoring such an article.”

We sent him a polite reply back, pointing out that we frequently cover difficult or controversial subjects, and recommending that he actually read the feature before dismissing it for being (his words) “made up trendy fads and imaginary exclusion”. But his renewal remains cancelled at this point (which , of course, he has every right to do).

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: we value all our readers. Every single one. I don’t like losing any of our subscribers, for whatever reason… as far as the Cranked team is concerned, you’re all part of the extended family. But I also accept that everyone makes their own choices.

Cranked is all about celebrating the variety in our sport. No other mountain bike mag covers the breadth and depth of stories that we do, and that’s something of which I’m very proud.

All kinds of people ride bikes. Most of them seem to be white, middle class, western men. But not all. We feature amazing women as often as we can, and we’ve given coverage to disabled riders several times over the years. We’ll continue to feature minorities as and when we’re able, because why wouldn’t we?

We also don’t shy away from controversy. Cranked was one of the first bike mags to give e-bikes extensive coverage, for example. We’ve been praised for our examination of mountain biking and mental health. We’ve tackled climate change, and the environmental cost of the bike industry.

The Trans feature in question gave a voice to two very different trans women, both racing bikes at an elite level. They’ve faced difficulties doing so, on top of anti-trans discrimination which has become, we’re told, particularly bad over the past few years. We simply told their stories.

Most mainstream magazines will kill a story if they fear it’ll upset any readers. It’s not because they think their readers are delicate petals; it’s the harsh economic reality of wanting to keep the pounds rolling in. And it’s a valid enough approach, except that the result can sometimes be bland, identikit content; the journalistic equivalent of a burger and fries, washed down with a shake. It’ll fill you up, but are you really satisfied?

The Cranked approach is different for a reason. Whilst I’m mangling a food metaphor, I might as well suggest that we’re more medium rare steak than mechanically reconstituted beef patty. Not everyone likes steak. I know that, and I accept it. It’s not going to stop me from seeking out the most interesting stories and publishing them, even if some people find that approach a little too challenging for their tastes. It’s the same reason we don’t asterisk or edit out expletives.

Publish and be damned. We don’t set out to offend anyone, but I make no apology if sometimes we challenge preconceptions and ask difficult questions. I hope you like our approach. But if you don’t, I’m cool with that too.

Seb

Founder / editor / chief bottle washer

 

 

 

 

3 Responses to Publish and be damned

  1. Vinay November 12, 2021 at 3:04 pm #

    Hi Seb, just wanted to say that I appreciate the fact that you cover the full spectrum of the scene and don’t leave anyone out. The article in question was absolutely beautiful and it pains me to think how tough it can be for trans people to be who they love to be and do what they love to do. It would have actually be worse if the media would ignore these people and act as if the issues they’re facing just aren’t there. I’m subscribed because of your openminded and inclusive approach and I can only imagine me canceling my subscription if you quit being just that.

    • Seb Rogers November 12, 2021 at 3:26 pm #

      Hi Vinay, thanks – really appreciate that. We have no intention of changing.

      The only visible pushback we got was from two individuals (including the one mentioned above) and, in both cases, they admitted they hadn’t actually read it the feature. Which means it was entirely their built-in prejudices informing their reaction. We all have unconscious bias but part of my job, as editor, is to rise above that.

      Riding bikes should be accessible to as many people as possible. Regardless of whether you approach that goal from an idealistic or a materialist perspective, it ought to be something that everyone can agree on. I make a conscious effort to be as inclusive as possible with Cranked. It’ll never be perfect (the criticism that we don’t feature enough women has some validity, for example), but we do try.

      Ultimately, it’s still just people telling their stories. And why wouldn’t we want to listen?

      • Vinay November 13, 2021 at 5:55 pm #

        Bummer they didn’t actually read the article. It would have been interesting if they would have been able to point out what exactly in the article it was that did upset them. It may be comfy in the echo chamber, but there is so much more interesting stuff to learn when you venture outside. Which goes for us too. We can bounce back and forth why we’re tolerant to everyone, but it is good to actually learn first hand why others feel differently. So what would it have been in this case. Was it because they felt trans athletes make for an unfair competition (in the womens field in particular), were there religious considerations or was it just because they felt the article may have been a bit single sided in that there were no actual people or organisations interviewed who object against trans athletes? Or maybe there were and I need to read the article again. Either way, now that they haven’t actually read the article it was neither of those. But if it would have been the third of the reasons mentioned above, this could be a consideration. If there is a heavily debated issue, interview both sides. But I agree it is a tough one, especially in this case. You may hear statements you don’t want to publish. That it right? It is actually easier to publish statements that some people may object to, but you are perfectly fine with. But if you’re interviewing both sides of the fence, you’ll actually end up with statements you object to. I honestly wouldn’t know how to deal with that.

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