This month's issue is devoted to children and the families of children with special needs.
Dear Columbus Parents,
This is me with the beautiful Leah, our April cover model. Eagle-eyed readers may recognize her, though she has grown two sizes since she appeared in our September 2012 kids' fashion spread. We asked her back because, when we were thinking up an April cover concept that communicated spring and happiness, our minds went right to Leah, who truly is one of the most exuberant and naturally talented child models we have ever had the pleasure to work with.
Such joy and fun this shoot was! But then only a few hours after this photo was taken, some emails arrived in my inbox that took me straight to the other end of the emotional spectrum. They were from another parent of a child with special needs (Leah, in case you're wondering, has Down syndrome).
This other parent wrote, seeking a monthly column for herself and an organization she founded (and for which we provide - and will continue to provide - free listings in our calendar). We couldn't accommodate her request and she made it clear she was not happy. I hope, in a calmer moment, she rethinks some of her angry words belittling the challenges faced by other families because I believe our coverage of the entire special-needs community is second to none. We don't just devote one issue a year to these issues. We integrate information about accessibility, safety and other needs into our regular features every month. And that is unique among regional parenting magazines.
But I also realized that possibly this was a cue to explain to readers how we do what we do. On an average day, I receive at least 25-30 emails, letters and phone calls from people asking us to write an article about them or provide them with a column. While many represent for-profit enterprises, just as many represent not-for-profit causes.
Why can't we accommodate them all? In the print journalism industry, the size of publications has shrunk because of increased costs of printing and distribution, as well as the fact that many businesses cut back on their advertising spending during the recession (thankfully, we are all seeing improvement there). So the amount of space I have to allocate to articles has diminished.
But that's why we have beefed up what we do online because the costs there are much lower. We use our free online calendar, Daily Bulletins (published on the website every weekday), our weekly Bulletin (an e-newsletter that readers subscribe to), plus our Facebook and Twitter accounts to share more information. More often than not, we are using these tools to tell people about the nonprofits or about free services. Can we do better? Absolutely, and we are always exploring ways to do so.
If someone wants to get their message out and control how it is communicated, they can purchase advertising. But on the editorial side, we must maintain balance and objectivity. We also must honor our mission to provide information for the broadest possible range of families and needs.