Criticism: “elephant lacks editorial rigor & is trying to be everything to everybody, which can’t work.”

Via on Aug 17, 2011

See very bottom of this blog for my direct response to the titular concern, via one of our best writers.

This article is my weekly editor’s letter, as it appears in our free BEST OF THE WEEK elephant newsletter. Overwhelmed by our Facebook or twitter or RSS feeds? The newsletter is just one email a week—just the best and most popular/controversial. Sign up here. ~ ed.

Dating a Yoga Goddess.

One of our most popular articles, ever? I can’t stand it.

And that, to me, is what elephant is. We’re dialogue, not club.

We’re about exercising our weakened societal muscles that enable “disagreement” and “respectful” to occur simultaneously.

Readers and writers sometimes ask what we’re about. “You seem to focus on everything!?” They don’t mean that as a complement. I assure them: sorry, we are about everything. Life’s about everything. And we’re about “the mindful life”—everything from eco diapers to mountain biking to campaign financing or obesity or animal rights, meditation how-to and flower arranging. We’re about bringing mindfulness, prajna, joy and compassion to everything we do.

And so it is that elephant, itself, becomes a joy to me. It’s not about me and what I like or think. It’s free to disagree with me—or you. And we’re free, through our comments section and the wonderful give-take 2.0 nature of online journalism, to disagree or dialogue with authors and one another. Respectfully.

And so it is when an egotistical self-regarding New Agey prima donna rants about how wonderful and fabulous she is, I don’t (as editor-in-chief) take the article down or edit it into something I agree with. I feature it. Then I leave a comment. And then, to my delight, our readers embrace it as one of the most interesting (whether you agree or not) articles on elephant, ever. And then, to my delight, my heart, mind and eyes are opened, and I get to like the article and the author, both.

If you’d like to write on elephant, do it now. As “Dating a Yoga Goddess” puts it,

“Don’t wait for life to look like the movies. Start writing your story. Start where you are. You don’t need anything.”

Except to email us with your idea for an article. Seriously—try us. We’ll even publish supporters of Michele Bachmann.

 

Direct response to the concern as expressed in the title (sorry about the ALL CAPS, it was in an email and I had to differentiate my responses from the list of their questions/concerns). ~ ed.

{Suggestion via writer}

Reduce the number of sections to no more than five and reconfigure the site accordingly. As it is the sheer number of categories contributes to the criticism that EJ lacks editorial rigor and is trying to be everything to everybody, which can’t work. I’d suggest something along the lines of:
> Yoga & Meditation
> Religion & Spirituality
> Gender & Sexuality
> Politics & Society
> Lifestyle & Culture

{My thoughts}

IN OUR MAGAZINE DAYS, WE HAD “YOGA, ORGANICS, SUSTAINABILITY, CONSCIOUS CONSUMERISM, ACTIVE CITIZENSHIP, ECOFASHION, THE ARTS.”

I’M OKAY WITH HAVING MANY SECTIONS, AS DOES HUFF POST, BECAUSE, WELL, WE ARE TRYING TO BE EVERYTHING—MINDFUL—TO EVERYBODY. AS IN, MINDFULNESS CAN EXTEND TO AND PERMEATE ALL ASPECTS OF LIFE: FROM BUYING AN ECO YOGA MAT AT A LOCAL INDIE SHOP TO MEDITATION PRACTICE HELPING US REMEMBER TO TURN OFF THE LIGHT SWITCH, AND WHY, TO HOW TO DEAL WITH ANGER THAT COULD LEAD TO DOMESTIC VIOLENCE, TO STAYING SAFE WITHIN ONE’S CAPABILITIES WHEN ROCK CLIMBING, TO DEALING WITH BALANCE OF WORK AND FAMILY…

THAT SAID, I AM FINE WITH REFINING OUR CATEGORIES AND LIMITING IN NUMBER AND HAVING CLEAR SUBCATEGORIES BENEATH THEM.

About Waylon Lewis

Waylon Lewis, founder of elephant magazine, now elephantjournal.com & host of Walk the Talk Show with Waylon Lewis, is a 1st generation American Buddhist “Dharma Brat." Voted #1 in U.S. on twitter for #green two years running, Changemaker & Eco Ambassador by Treehugger, Green Hero by Discovery’s Planet Green, Best (!) Shameless Self-Promoter at Westword's Web Awards, Prominent Buddhist by Shambhala Sun, & 100 Most Influential People in Health & Fitness 2011 by "Greatist", Waylon is a mediocre climber, lazy yogi, 365-day bicycle commuter & best friend to Redford (his rescue hound). His aim: to bring the good news re: "the mindful life" beyond the choir & to all those who didn't know they gave a care. elephantjournal.com | facebook.com/elephantjournal | twitter.com/elephantjournal | facebook.com/waylonhlewis | twitter.com/waylonlewis | Google+ For more: publisherelephantjournalcom

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19 Responses to “Criticism: “elephant lacks editorial rigor & is trying to be everything to everybody, which can’t work.””

  1. Allie Bombach Allie B says:

    way to stick to your guns Way. Boom.

  2. elephantjournal says:

    #
    Lourdes Flores I love the way elephant journal is!! please keep going just as you are…..
    41 minutes ago · UnlikeLike · 3 peopleLoading…
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    elephantjournal.com We will, only more so and hopefully with more editors when we can and more quality and a further reach! ~ Waylon.
    36 minutes ago · LikeUnlike · 1 personLourdes Flores likes this.
    #
    Debby Wickham It's all good to me, if I don't want to read a particular post I just don't, it may be just what someone else needs that day. Everything ele posts seems cohesive within the ideas of mindfulness.
    34 minutes ago · LikeUnlike · 2 peopleLoading…
    #
    Alena Wofford-Polster I thoroughly enjoy elephantjournal.com! Do not change a thing! :)

  3. So how 'bout if Michelle Bachmann herself writes an article called "Dating a Political Goddess"?

  4. Suri kate says:

    I personally Hate! Hate! Hate! Yoga so i always avoid any posts that have anything to do with it .. Luckily there's always a diverse array of subjects whereto choose from and i always find something funny , interesting or entertaining to read ….thats why i like this place and thats why i keep coming back

  5. [...] New Agey “spiritual materialism,” we can comment, talk with the author…and the back-and-forth, 2.0, nature of the internet makes for a valuable and usually fun dialogue. And often, of course, it’s me or whomever among us that’s being knee-jerk critical who [...]

  6. Padma Kadag says:

    What attracts me to EJ is that with the wide open opportunity to post "spiritual" articles you really get an excellent sense of the condition of spirituality in the alleged spiritual social circles here in the west. For me, you really can see the understanding and the misunderstandings of of this thing we call a spiritual path

  7. Tamara says:

    Nicely put Waylon~

  8. heaters says:

    delivers a fresh

  9. I like Elephant Journal just the way it is! I ENJOY a kaleidoscope of content, a spiritual grab bag, never knowing what will turn up next. This is what sets EJ apart from other opinion websites… no boundaries, no rules… it is why I purchased a subscription. Please don't change anything, and direct the critics to some other website.

  10. Donna M in Canada says:

    I love that I never know what I'm going tor read next and that I like some of it and some of it not. That's what provides the spark. Keep it coming.

  11. Emily Alp Emily Alp says:

    What you are explaining, Waylon, is what makes Elephant so synchronistically and aptly amazing, not to mention, as you said, lifelike. It’s a pioneer in media, a stand-alone mirror without the smoke. And having dealt with you directly, your intention’s are as pure as to be quite rare. Thank you so much!

    Strong Admiration.

  12. adam says:

    Please, please, please, hire a proofreader. And then, hire someone who could edit articles for mis-used words, bad grammar, and other basic errors.

    • elephantjournal says:

      I agree, heartily. I wish.

      Please, please, please, subscribe. I've lost money for 3.5 years on this, and I didn't have money to begin with. We have no staff, ads pay very little and take a ton of time and work to get at all, and our subscriptions cost $1 a month. Or, join our volunteers, and you can help hunt typos, fun! ~ Waylon
      http://www.elephantjournal.com/member

  13. AntoniaBologna says:

    Huh, I joined this because of my yoga practice. I like that it covers so many different areas of life, so many different opinions, so many different subjects. Its so funny that people are complaining that it is too broad, because its not like EJ covers conservative concerns, or extreme fashions, or even extreme sports (not that I am suggesting that you do, just that there is a limit to what we see here), or celebrity gossip. I'm just pointing out that it tends toward some spiritual aspects, yoga, and what practitioners of both of those aspects tend to gravitate toward (food, some fashions as it impacts on yoga, some attitudes that is common or not so common among these segment of the population). EJ, for me, you are just right and I can ignore what I am not interested in, just like I do over at HuffPost…

  14. Annaliese says:

    I both love Elephant Journal's broad scope and variety, and would love to see some simplification for searching out what I want as well as wandering through the entire site. Thanks!

    • elephantjournal says:

      Yes, we agree, our search function…sucks. Hopefully we'll be able to improve, but good search functions cost money. ~ W.

  15. elephantjournal says:

    Personally, I feel that some controlling people get very uncomfortable if they can't put everything into neat little boxes, marked tidily…. Likn/intro via~Tobye.
    #
    Sarah Gunnin You are the voice of the people. That is why elephant journal rocks. Who cares about the outcome. Just put it out for us to read….we can all agree all facets of our mirror needs to have a voice.xo

    #
    Choga Nyima That takes all the fun out of being in the present, fully awake!!!

    #
    Maui Porter Gee, ele, I think it's great that you're trying to Be Everything. :)

    #
    Debra Rishy Adams No ticky taky boxes for Ele, and thats just the way we like it!

  16. ezekiel says:

    "typo's" doesn't need an apostrophe ;-)

  17. elephantjournal says:

    We raaarely post an article on FB more than twice—when we do it's cause there's more life and readership in it. But I do hear you: for you I'd recommend our BEST TEN Newsletter, just one email a week with only our best. ~ Waylon
    http://www.elephantjournal.com/join-the-cause

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