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Editor's Notebook: Dear Editor, You Suck

What to do when the excuse "there only are so many hours in the day" doesn't work anymore.

When I put the magazine together, I’m faced with filling anywhere from about 30 pages to as many as 50 or 60 pages with feature articles, news and product information.

Believe it or not, writing and/or editing the articles isn’t the difficult part. The hard part is trying to find photographs to illustrate the articles. Sometimes we succeed magnificently and sometimes we fail miserably.

“Failure,” when it comes to photographs in this magazine, can mean one of two things: The photo doesn’t fit the article and readers are left scratching their heads; or worse, the photo shows unsafe behavior in a magazine dedicated to workplace safety and health.

The first failure I can live with. Sometimes a photo seems like a good idea at the time – one of those “good on paper”/”bad in execution” ideas we all have from time to time. There is no excuse for the second failure, which generally happens when we are rushing to get the issue to the printer.

In the case of a photograph that appeared in the March issue, I knew it didn’t quite fill the bill for the context of the article, but it was free, it was in focus and I was doing 10 other things when our art director brought it to me. By choosing that photograph, and by not taking the time to take a closer look at it, I failed you.

This letter from Risk Manager Steve Halvorsen, at Henry Carlson Co. in Sioux Falls, S.D., says it best:

I was reading your article “Elevating Safety to New Heights” in your March 2007 Occupational Hazards magazine. When the article is on using man-baskets in conjunction with forklifts, I am wondering why the article photo shows an “aerial lift” with two men NOT tied off with personal fall protection, which is required each time one operates an aerial lift.

I believe it would be more helpful to readers to be able to identify a “true picture” with the article. This photo may give readers the false impression that personal fall protection is not required in aerial lifts. To me, the photo misrepresents what the article is about.

... It is hard enough to control safety in the field without giving false ammunition to companies that don’t seriously practice safety. We need to know our subject and represent it correctly.

To Steve and to all of you I say this: I promise to devote as much time and attention to the choice of photographs in the magazine as I do to the editorial content, and I apologize for allowing a photograph that shows unsafe behavior to grace the editorial pages of Occupational Hazards.

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