Sunday, August 21, 2011

Elephant Journal's Got Issues

This post might ruffle some feathers. For others, it's probably been their opinion for a long time.

It started with some reactions to the following video, which has been making the rounds on various websites.



I'm not going to comment on the video itself, but want to focus in on one site of "discussion" in regards to the content of the video: Elephant Journal. For anyone not in the know, Elephant Journal is a fairly popular web-journal that centers itself around yoga, Buddhism, and environmentalism. A few years back, I was a regular reader of EJ. More recently, I have been on the fence about EJ - liking some of the content, but also finding some of the content fluffy and feel-good. Yet, while others took shots at the journal's editor, Waylon Lewis, last year after an incident involving one of his former writers, I tried to focus on the issues being brought up by the former EJ writer about some potential corruption in an American Buddhist sangha.

However, with the following display of stupidity and arrogance, all in the name of shits and giggles, I'm leaping off the EJ fence on the side of something else, anything really that is willing to handle issues with more maturity and integrity.

Now, in full disclosure, I was contacted by one of EJ's editors last month, seeking new Buddhist columnists. My subsequent attempts to return that correspondence and find out more details about their writing policies, at multiple e-mail addresses, including the main EJ e-mail address, went unanswered. In addition, about a year and a half ago, another blogger recommended my writing to EJ, and when I sent a few sample columns in, they first got lost, and then were received, but never commented on.

I bring this up because as a former journal editor, I'm aware of the challenges that come with dealing with unsolicited material. We occasionally lost pieces that were sent to us as well, even after taking care to keep everything organized in piles by genre. And so that, in and of itself, is something any writer should be aware of. However, it's quite different if you either have solicited work from someone, or had work recommended to you by another writer. Dropping the ball on those as an editorial team is a screw up, the kind that can negatively impact your reputation. My literary journal lost a set of poems by a fairly well known author and had to send her an apology letter and ask for second copies. Fortunately, she handled it gracefully.

So, I didn't plan on offering the story about what felt to me like fumbled communications regarding my writing with Elephant Journal. However, after reading the post I cited above, as well as this one, from the yoga blogger whose comments sparked the EJ post, and finally this post by another yoga blogger, I felt compelled to say something.

What exactly? Well, first off, when done well, spiritual humor is absolutely illuminating and sometimes the best teaching anyone could have. That said, much of the humor on EJ doesn't hit that mark. And if you're choosing to raise the bar, and add race into the mix, like the video above does, then you better damned well get it right. Or your flop is gonna be fucking massive. And frankly the comments from Waylon Lewis in response to disagreements about the "humor value" of the Yoga for Black People video are a fucking massive flop.

Secondly, any publication that has 48,000 readers needs to recognize that it has some responsibility on it hands. Even if you cut that number in half - considering the inflation of stats that occur online - that's still 24,000 readers. Not chump change in other words. I have no interest in detailing out what constitutes "responsibility" because that depends upon what you ultimately decide your target audience is, who your writers might be, and what you wish your publication to do in the world.

Which brings me to the third point - Elephant Journal is a publication with an identity crisis. Is it a spiritual humor website? Is it aiming to offer serious content that might teach people? Is it a political website using spiritual content as an enticing companion to pro-Democratic Party propaganda?

What is it?

Perhaps if it were easily identified as a spiritual humor website, for example, people looking for anything other than that might avoid it all together. There still might be heated discussion about issues like the Yoga for Black People video, but at least the focus of the journal, as well as the intent of the editorial team, would be much less in question.

But as it is now, the mission and direction of EJ seem pretty unclear to me. I actually was surprised that anyone from EJ contacted me about my writing, seeing as the work I sent over previously never was responded to, and since then I haven't really seen what I do here at Dangerous Harvests as compatible with a lot of what Elephant Journal is doing. Which again isn't a total dismissal of what's happening over there - I do enjoy some of the writers they have very much. However, I'm just really unclear how my writing would fit in at EJ, which leads me back to the point about mission and direction. If you don't have enough clarity, it's damned easy to stir up confusion and misery.

So, I write all of this knowing that a lot of folks online have already taken a stance on Elephant. Some will defend it nearly to the death. Others desire its death post haste. I'm not in either of those camps. Knowing how much work it is to establish a readership and develop a quality journal, I'm not one to flippantly wish death to a publication. And also knowing how much bs occurs behind the scenes and sometimes on the pages of many journals and magazines, I'm also not one to go soft on criticism when criticism is due.

So, this post is an offering to EJ's editorial team, and to anyone else who is running well read blogs, spiritual magazines, or web-journals. I fully admit that I am not an impartial observer, and that I may not have every last fact available. In fact, I'm not completely sure that I have maintained right speech throughout this article. However, I felt compelled to say something, and share the blog posts of others who had something to say about these recent happenings over at Elephant Journal.

May something beneficial come out of all of this.

32 comments:

Waylon said...

Dear Nathan,

Thanks for your thoughtful inquiry. I admit, not that it's necessary—it's pretty obvious at this point—that I reacted emotionally and defensively to being told that I was promoting a video that was racist. I, and many readers and commenters, as well as Will Ferrell's Funny or Die, clearly didn't see it that way. That said, part of our job as we see it at elephant is to find anything that connects our readers' path, yoga, meditation, trying to live an eco-responsible life, being of benefit in society through social work or the political process—with pop culture. That's just a part of what we do, but when we see such a video we generally share it. I made a point of sharing it with the introduction: this is making fun of the context that yoga is generally perceived to be a white, hippie, yuppie thing. I have genuine and real love and respect for all humans, especially those who are trying to be of benefit. I try not to see the world through the lens of race, even while celebrating our diversity. That said, I know I am half-Jewish, half "white," and though I grew up poor I am, just by virtue of being "white," an inheritor of privilege that I take for granted.

I know nothing about (I assume Ben's) reaching out to you to write on elephant, but based on this blog, I can see why he might have done so. An ability to be critical, yet respectful, is rare.

I failed to do so in my defensive reaction to Chelsea, and for that I'm paying. That's what I deserve. I only wish elephant wouldn't have to pay for my mistakes, generally—it really is a little community of folks trying to do the right thing, to share their path and experience and spread the word about great things for a world in emotional and physical suffering.

If you'd like, please email me and I can tell you more about our mission, which is not to be one thing or the other, but to embrace both humor and depth, to be fun yet fundamentally serious, to engage in debate, not yes-man agreement or clubbiness. When a site embraces issues and controversy, and is human and makes mistakes, well, the above sort of maelstorm happens sometimes. For that I take responsibility.

Yours in learning as I go,

Waylon

Waylon said...

Dear Nathan,

Thanks for your thoughtful inquiry. I admit, not that it's necessary—it's pretty obvious at this point—that I reacted emotionally and defensively to being told that I was promoting a video that was racist. I, and many readers and commenters, as well as Will Ferrell's Funny or Die, clearly didn't see it that way. That said, part of our job as we see it at elephant is to find anything that connects our readers' path, yoga, meditation, trying to live an eco-responsible life, being of benefit in society through social work or the political process—with pop culture. That's just a part of what we do, but when we see such a video we generally share it. I made a point of sharing it with the introduction: this is making fun of the context that yoga is generally perceived to be a white, hippie, yuppie thing. I have genuine and real love and respect for all humans, especially those who are trying to be of benefit. I try not to see the world through the lens of race, even while celebrating our diversity. That said, I know I am half-Jewish, half "white," and though I grew up poor I am, just by virtue of being "white," an inheritor of privilege that I take for granted.

I know nothing about (I assume Ben's) reaching out to you to write on elephant, but based on this blog, I can see why he might have done so. An ability to be critical, yet respectful, is rare.

I failed to do so in my defensive reaction to Chelsea, and for that I'm paying. That's what I deserve. I only wish elephant wouldn't have to pay for my mistakes, generally—it really is a little community of folks trying to do the right thing, to share their path and experience and spread the word about great things for a world in emotional and physical suffering.

If you'd like, please email me and I can tell you more about our mission, which is not to be one thing or the other, but to embrace both humor and depth, to be fun yet fundamentally serious, to engage in debate, not yes-man agreement or clubbiness. When a site embraces issues and controversy, and is human and makes mistakes, well, the above sort of maelstorm happens sometimes. For that I take responsibility.

Yours in learning as I go,

Waylon

svasti said...

Waylon - Chelsea did NOT call you racist. That was your assumption based on her comments.

At no point did she say "Waylon, you are a racist". You did that. You.

Based on your jumping of the gun with your assumptions, you then proceeded to get upset at being called a racist. By yourself! Only you blamed it on Chelsea.

You then used your position as editor of your magazine to write another post singling Chelsea out and ridiculing her stance. To paraphrase, your comments seemed to be saying: gee, how could anyone find this offensive, it's just funny, heehee! And if you think it's racist then you're just stupid.

You pretty much told anyone else who disagreed with you to piss off as well.

Elephant pays because you are the Editor and you publish your reactive nonsense there. You also seem to have a comment policy that allows for all kinds of abuse to be hurled at other people - as long as it isn't you.

These are the reasons so many people are taking a stand against your actions.

Be honest with yourself - this is not the first time you've behaved in this sort of fashion. But truly, you've hit a nerve with a lot of people this time.

I am just thankful that Chelsea saw fit to be as brave and honest as she has. Others have felt the sting of Elephant Journal's bullying culture and I know at least one person who completely quit blogging as a result of their treatment on your site.

Nathan is right - you really need to work out what sort of site you have, take some responsibility and treat everyone with respect, even if they have different opinions than you do.

Nathan - thank you for this post.

Petteri Sulonen said...

:me raises hand: "Their opinion for a long time," here, please.

Produce Stand said...

I can't even form a coherent reaction to those posts. It's especially damning when most of their readership seems to be young colorblind white folks. But, if it doesn't offend them, then God knows everyone else is over reacting.

bookbird said...

Hey Nathan,

Here's where I lost my sense of humour with EJ:

http://www.elephantjournal.com/2011/01/cougar-lesbians-rawrr/

As Waylon says in response to this post "Don't make me explain that this is humorous."

Boo. What the fricking frack is that all about.

So you know, I was mad. And then I thought - whatever. I was never a mainstream person anyway. I like the fringe writers instead.

By the way I want to say that I love many writers who have work posted in EJ. People do have to work to earn a living and I get that. John Pappas for one - always an excellent writer.

Thanks for speaking up Nathan, I think you rock.

Sam said...

Well said Nathan. There is something strange going on at Elephant and think it has to do with the money making aspect that it has taken on in the last couple of years. As Waylon is dependent on the income from that site to pay his mortgage, his judgment might have become compromised due to a sense of desperation that he will lose traffic and income. I don't know, this is the only thing that I can think of since it used I used to be a loyal reader and the quality used to be so much higher. But I do agree with Waylon that it's a shame the others writers are tainted by his actions.

Eco Yogini said...

I've also never been a fan of Ele- thought about writing (was approached), decided that there was too much sexist posts for me to feel comfortable writing. Waylon was most gracious in accepting my decision.
that said- i am never quite comfortable over there- always feeling like any little comment could be taken and run with.
i don't read often- i just find most of the posts not that funny. I never thought joking about race or sex (ism) was funny. it has nothing to do with yoga, just something i firmly believe in.

i also made my decision not to write for Ele after going through the 'editorial' video made for potential writers.

A thoughtful post Nathan. Thank you.

Carol Horton said...

I have written for Elephant and therefore feel some responsibility to say something on this disaster, much as I'd rather stay away from the whole thing.

I agree with Nathan, who as usual has given a clear-minded, thoughtful, fair, and compassionate response. I hope that everyone else can follow his example.

Personally, I think the the "Yoga for Black People" video perpetuates harmful anti-Black stereotypes. As such it should not be legitimated, let alone celebrated and defended as it has been - most particularly by people committed to yoga and mindfulness practices.

Race is and always has been the most thorny and vexed issue in American culture. It's generated so much pain in so many lives that it takes real skill to be able to discuss it in a fruitful way. This video was anything but that. I completely understand why Chelsea objected and think that, given the circumstance, she did so quite gracefully.

Finally, while I don't like to comment on individuals directly, given the circumstances I'll say that while I think that Waylon f'ed up big-time on this one, and share many of the concerns about EJ that have been expressed, in the bigger picture I'm staying on the other side (pro-EJ) of the fence. Elephant has done way, way more good work than bad; life is not perfect; none of us are.

Hopefully, like Nathan said, something positive can come out of this.

Kim said...

I really used to love EJ & previously noticed the tendency of the editors to backlash at comments disagreeing with content but overlooked it.

But the intention behind that map, regardless of anyone's opinion of it, is truly sickening. I'm in complete disbelief at how he specifically targeted her with that article to create a Mob Mentality.

I've seen W say that they welcome debate as long as its phrased unemotionally, kindly and intelligently. That's what Chelsea did. That's all she did.

As a studio owner, at least for now, I'm not patronizing EJ's advertisers until I can work this out in my mind.

There's enough bullying in the world already. I think the main disappointment for me comes from the realization that something I loved & enjoyed has a mean, hateful streak running through it.

The hate-filled responses from other writers for the publication are another thing - mainly because they're not even recognizing they're own hatred.

The world really needs more lovin' right now.

Algernon said...

Well, damn. I just had my second article posted at EJ -- I was invited by Ben as well. Looked at EJ and thought, "Wow. How does my stuff fit in among all of this?" But I gave it a try. One article was Zennish, the other was more Buddhistish (precepts and the modern world stuff). There aren't a whole lot of articles there I would want to read, and many of them seem conspicuously titled so as to provoke and generate site traffic. I guess they gotta do what they gotta do.

And now I've got to decide what to do if Ben wants another article from me. He's a nice fellow and has treated my work well. My stuff is definitely a different tone from some of the other articles. Maybe it helps, maybe it just disappears into the ocean. What to do?

Where the humor comes from, that's important. Humor that is very edgy and non-P.C. can work, but if it is coming from a place of anger and defensiveness it shows, and it is not funny. I don't like the video in question much either. I'm at peace with other people finding it funny, but me, not so much.

Linda-Sama said...

c'mon, Carol, get real. you know full well that this incident is certainly not the first blunder for EJ or Waylon. This is not the place to remind you of my incident with EJ and the current yoga editor over a story about Tara Stiles. I won't remind you of the history of that here. You also know that there are more than a few yoga bloggers who have refused to write for EJ because of their editorial policy, so to speak.

You know yourself that a typical EJ response when their status quo is questioned is to be called a "hater", to be told to "lighten up", or that one doesn't have a sense of humor, etc. etc. etc.

That's what every guilty party yells when they are called on their nonsense -- "what? who me? what did I do?"

Labeling something a joke doesn't make it hurt any less. It's truly a dysfunctional household when an attempt is made to add shame to the ones who are calling out the perpetrator.

What is even more offensive than that video -- one that I found more stupid than anything else -- was how Chelsea was told to shut up after standing up for what she believed in. Basically, get to the back of the bus. This, from so-called hip readers of a supposedly cutting edge online rag? please.

and what ever happened to just saying "I'm sorry" and leaving it at that instead of trying to justify bad behavior? it's called EMPATHY, Waylon! Since you love telling everyone about your Buddhist history, you should know that empathy is one of the things that is cultivated in a Buddhist practice.

Waylon said at Chelsea's blog that it was "just a comedy video." Well, the N word is just a word but it is offensive. Does that mean just because one doesn't find the N word offensive they can use it? and then tell others who are offended by it to "lighten up"? Yeah, that really helped Michael Richards' comedy career!

This incident with Chelsea has merely brought things to light about how EJ and Waylon need to clean up their acts.

Nathan said...

Waylon,

Thanks for responding here. "I only wish elephant wouldn't have to pay for my mistakes" - I understand your sentiment here. The thing is, as you probably know, editors are held to a higher standard. And the way I see it, part of your job is to do what you can to maintain some kind of order and safety for readers at your site. Especially when highly controversial topics are taken up.
That's where a lot of the heat is coming from here - the fact that those who disagree with given posts seem to feel locked out of the discussion or even targeted by readers who are "enjoying a good laugh."

So, do with that what you will. I think it's great to take up controversial topics - I do that here at DH fairly often - but at the same time, if you lean too heavily on the provocative side, you'll attract a lot of crap. That's been my experience anyway.

Nathan

Nathan said...

Also, I have to say that I totally agree with the sentiments expressed by Eco-yogini and Bookbird about sexism and heterosexism. Just being edgy as a method of humor is a great way to piss a lot of people off for no good reason. And in the process, perpetuation stereotypes that damage far more people than ever read your publication.

Linda-Sama said...

my last 2 rupees on the "video incident": http://lindasyoga.com/2011/08/22/enoughs-enough/

by the way, after I posted this on Twitter I received a message from another yoga blogger who said she also experienced some questionable EJ tactics.

starting to feel a bit icky in here.....

Anonymous said...

Wow.
Although I can't say I'm surprised. I stopped reading anything posted by Ej or Waylon a while ago when I got assaulted in the comment section by Waylon, in his 'emotional and defensive' style.
Maybe its time to stop logging onto this site altogether.

Svasti said...

Carol - please explain with a few examples what you mean when you say "Elephant has done way, way more good work than bad".

Personally I don't think that's true.

You know better than anyone what goes on behind the scenes of EJ, and to be honest, standing up for them here has just lost you my respect.

Mumon said...

I think EJ is irrelevant. At least since I made my criticism of it some months ago.

:-)

kloncke.com said...

Have only read EJ less than a handful of times, all within the last year, and stopped going there because I wasn't feelin' the tone, veiled sexism, & 'shininess' of the place. But I'd be sad to miss out on some good writing that's been featured there over the years! So thanks for naming John Pappas, bookbird — i'll check him out.

One lesson I'm taking from observing this telling is that more and more in online publishing, how one moderates comments, and responds to comments, is just as important a skill as how one writes and edits. For me it really is a matter of interaction almost as much as media creation. So if Waylon has showed multiple times that he's unable to respond in contentious threads without steamrolling folks, then maybe he should step back and ask someone else to take charge of responding on controversial posts. As an editor of the site, it's just awkward to have his own opinion weighted so much more heavily (getting to create a whole new post to target Chelsea). My opinion.

Linda-Sama said...

maybe you should go to his Facebook page recommend that. I hear he is throwing himself one huge pity party.

Nathan said...

"One lesson I'm taking from observing this telling is that more and more in online publishing, how one moderates comments, and responds to comments, is just as important a skill as how one writes and edits. For me it really is a matter of interaction almost as much as media creation."

This is something I have been writing about for awhile now. Because I believe that how one interacts online demonstrates as much, if not more, than anything they actually write. I can sound profound in a blog post, but if I'm repeatedly an asshole to those who respond to my posts in differing ways, that says a lot.

Furthermore, all of this turmoil spills over into our "regular lives," even if in subtle ways.

Ben said...

EJ was recommended to me by a spiritual friend. I added it to my RSS feed for about a month. I think I may have clicked through to read 2 articles, and recall that both times I was thoroughly disappointed.

I don't find the site funny or interesting at all.

Diane said...

Dear Nathan,

I'm pleased to learn about your blog and wish to share a sentiment that I posted on Svasti's blog as well, sending thanks for your participation in the online commentary around the recent incidences involving Chelsea Loves Yoga and elephant journal. As co-host of the weekly online radio show Where Is My Guru (www.whereismyguru.com), I’m grateful for the opportunity to write to you and invite you and any of your readers to join us as a call-in guest this Friday, August 26 as we explore the topic of online social communication during the first fifteen minutes of our show which airs live from 11 am – 12 pm EST. We have extended an invitation to Chelsea to join us as well, and we await her response. We have also invited Waylon Lewis of elephant journal to participate in a live online discussion. I’m including the link to our most recent newsletter with more information about this Friday’s show and other news via Where Is My Guru, and cordially invite you to join our community this Friday and every Friday.

http://us2.campaign-archive2.com/?u=824fcc9ad2dfc6aada6eb0a7b&id=079a43241a

As a contributing writer to elephant journal, I’m grateful at the opportunity to share my ele profile with the intention to encourage further collaboration and community.

http://www.elephantjournal.com/author/diane-ferraro/

And, may I share a recent ele post by Matthew R. which touches on some points that might be of interest. I found some great nuggets of inspiration here for us online communicators:

http://www.elephantjournal.com/2011/08/yoga-bloggers-meet-in-the-flesh-theyre-alive–alliiiive/

I don’t love everything that comes out of ele, but I do find wonderful pieces that lean toward not throwing out the baby with the bathwater. Waylon can certainly be a big baby at times, and while I don’t always agree with his behavior, he worships Steve Jobs, and that can’t make him all bad :)

http://www.elephantjournal.com/2011/08/breaking-steve-jobs-ceo-of-apple-to/

Looking forward to staying connected. And thank you very much for allowing me to comment here with you.

With Gratitude~Diane

Susan Pease Banitt, LCSW said...

Well said, Nathan. I have been investigating EJ and have come to many of your same conclusions. I found the recent Ben Ralston article on the word c**t, particularly egoic, offensive and just plain sexist. EJ writers seem to be really full of themselves, the opposite of yoga. Too bad; it had such promise.

Birgit said...

Dear Nathan, thank you for your blog on Elephant Journal. I've been really wanting to like it. Some months back I commented on a video and said that the interviewer seemed to not be listening to Richard Freedman and that his jokes weren't funny and that his mannerism was extremely distracting. Some kind of tirade of a response was the result. I realized the interviewer is more important than the audience and stayed away. Recently I was sent a couple of Elephant Journal posts and quite liked one, while I found the other of poor quality. Looking what author's other writing outside of Elephant Journal consists of has been a disappointing experience, I only looked up 3, I haven't got time to sift through the entire content. Now today I logged in thinking: I'll give it another go and have a browse: a lot of the content is woefully bland and if it was food it wouldn't be as nourishing as it should be, it would be more like mass farmed or processed food. I think this is sad, but taking one single look at the opening page shows an onslaught of marketing language and questionable article titles, that as someone else said are clearly designed to increase traffic. Sadly often at the expense of content. I am not a writer or teacher, I just like to read good things. Thank you for you post and I now which blog I'll return to to check out further posts. x

Brooks Hall said...

Hi Nathan, I like your blog, and really don't like the video. I didn't even look at it on EJ because I thought it was likely that it would offend me. But I did today because I came across all the cross-talk in a bit of Saturday surfing…

I like that my megaphone is a bit louder at elephant. And if I use that to say something I passionately believe in as I did with my last post then EJ's popularity adds to my voice.

http://www.elephantjournal.com/2011/09/is-rape-culture-darwins-fault/

Everybody has opinions, even Waylon. I think it's okay that we think differently. It's the way it is. And we could all benefit from continuing to learn how to speak our minds without alienating others.

Also forgiveness is helpful when someone else can't see the violence of their words (or lack of words)… Only when we find a way to continue the conversation can we hope to find meaningful communication (and healing).

Best to you!

Yogi Mat said...

Brooks, RE: "I like that my megaphone is a bit louder at elephant." Well I don't much like the idea of yoga teachers brandishing a megaphone at all, even notable or worshipful ones - let alone all and sundry being able to turn up the volume. I am not sure that volume solves anything, and "Mega" doesn't seem to have uch to do with "yoga" to me, how does it you you? PS. "violence of their words" puhleese - offensive - yes - hostile - yes - objectionable - sure but "violent"? that word has been severely misappropriated by Rosenberg to push the more subtle violence of nonviolent language

charlie said...

Nathan thankyou for your part in highlighting the issue . I have come across EJ through the misinformation and public relations they are , waylon in particular , putting out in support of John Friend . They claim to be Buddhist and Yogic but the behaviour and content of site due mainly to the way it is edited and presented , to my mind brings a diluting and cheapening to these noble paths .His behaviour is bizarre and childlike , I was particuarly struck reading through the comments ,of one by Kate Borlotti , who I beleive is an editor where she found that map funny , did she really find humour in the Japanese being portrayed as tsunami victims ? I could be angry but I went straight to sadness , but each will have their own view emotion and thought unless of course the mind is quiet . I have not read much on the EJ site as i would never give my money to this bunch , but Ive seen him in posts claim to be half jewish ,can you be half jewish ? because he thought that he was accused of being racist , interstingly he wasnt accused of that , but this was his own fiction , this is telling !
but in other posts he claims to be a Buddhist , he seems confused or more likely he just feels a need to be heard and will say any thing to that end ,and to prove that he is right , even his apologies are not apologies rather justifications and a plea that this should not reflect on EJ , would not want to upset the revenue stream now . You can find claims that he is not a journalist and others that he is , There seems to be a culture as others have copmmented , of us and them , and like the friend people , if you dont laugh and agree but put an intelligent counter view forward , you are ostracised , belittled or just plain old censored ,where is the shame . He would do better to stop pretending that he is a Yogi or a Buddhist it is obvious from his behaviour he is not versed in the practises of either tradition or he would not be so scared of the truth , or act out the way he does ,It looks like he has hitched his wagon to these words because he just wants to make a buck out of this blog , not a crime , and yoga and buddhism are so hip at the moment , well they wont be by the time waylon , Mr Friend and the like have cheapened its name , creating confusion and misinformation , but may be that will be fine you can move on to the next big thing and leave the true aspirants to their Dharma.
I wont go into his sexulisation of so much , but he seems to have a lot of unresolved issues .
But thankyou Nathan , Linda and of course Chelsea for standing in your truth , sounds a bit like anusaran speak , but i do mean that . SAHDU

Anonymous said...

Hello Nathan,

Thank you for such a well put together and thoughtful article. I found your post because after watching Waylon Lewis attack commenters on the Elephant Journal Facebook page, I wanted to see if this has been a pattern for the publication's founder. I am shocked and saddened by what I have seen.

I was a subscriber to Elephant Journal from November 2012 and was even invited to write for Elephant Journal a few times. However, since liking their main Facebook page I have noticed the quality of content has been very poor. From an angle of just writing structure the articles are full of basic writing errors, poor structure, and were in some definite need of proper editing. What has been more disturbing to me though is the type of articles Waylon Lewis is choosing to feature on the Elephant Journal Facebook page. A very large portion of it is content that is posted purely for shock value. I get the feeling Elephant Journal is more about controversy, using salacious topics, and explicit sex to boost hits. It's very obvious that Elephant Journal has an identity crisis as to what it's mission really is.

What I have the most issue with is Waylon Lewis' inability to properly moderate, especially when it comes to posting sensitive and controversial material. I do believe very strongly that if Waylon Lewis wants to be about controversy, wants to gain attention through posting explicit sex, and material that is meant to shock and stir conversation then he needs to be ready to handle whatever conversation comes his way.

I have watched Waylon Lewis regularly attack commenters who expressed a different opinion than him, or take offense to content that is clearly posted to cause controversy. I have watched Waylon Lewis resort to petty insults, mocking commenters, and then proceed to delete comments not to his liking and shortly follow it up with a pity party post and incites his loyal following to attack readers.

Last night Waylon Lewis reposted an old Newsweek article from 1972 about "Fat wives versus skinny wives when it comes to sex." It was in poor taste and there were many readers who were offended. Instead of handling the criticism with grace, Waylon Lewis instantly responded with aggressive mockery of the commenters, accused people of not reading the article, and resorted to flat out insults. Of course, within an hour several of the comments were deleted, including Waylon Lewis' highly insulting responses, and Waylon Lewis had posted a pity party that spanned over a series of several posts that were put up over a period of a few hours. In these pity party posts he also incited other readers to attack other commenters.

It would be in his best interests to step down as a moderator and find someone who is more capable of professionally running and moderating the sites. Several times I have watched Waylon Lewis beg people to not judge Elephant Journal based on his failings and lack of professionalism. But the thing is, Elephant Journal is a business. He is asking people to pay to subscribe and give donations. Recently he featured a contest with money prizes for the writers who were able to get the most hits and comments. Is Elephant Journal about quality content or being as visible as possible? But here's the thing. When people are paying for a service they do have a right to voice concerns and complaints about that service. If you attack your customers and give them bad service it will affect your business and you will lose money. I don't think Waylon Lewis understands these most basic principles of running a business. Nor do I think he is able to handle the kind of responses he may receive for posting the controversial content he wishes to feature.

I am sorry to see the things that have transpired and especially sad to see that years later Waylon Lewis still has not learned anything and continues to poorly moderate and attack subscribers and readers.

Nathan said...

Hi Anonymous,

It doesn't surprise me that things haven't gotten any better over at EJ. The quality of writing has really gone down since I wrote this blog post, and it wasn't that great two years ago. I rarely read any of their stuff anymore because of that.

Waylon's behavior during the time I was following EJ was unprofessional, and it sounds like that hasn't changed. Perhaps it's even worse because the core following enjoys the antics. I'm guessing that he's able to maintain enough folks interested in fairly fluffy or provocative material that it doesn't matter if he drives off the rest of the readers.

I actually wonder if the whole thing has simply drifted into something of a spiritual "shock" website. Where folks go to get a bit of "dharma candy" or "dharma drama." There's always been something of a hipster vibe to EJ, even when they've had some good writers around.

The thing is, it doesn't seem like folks are sticking around very long. And by that, I mean writers and editors. I had a dialogue with Bob Weisenberg, the old yoga editor, back in 2011 about why I didn't want to write for EJ. He seemed to really want to bring good material over there, and judging from the other quality content he's promoted since, I have a feeling he grew tired of trying and left. The writers are basically giving away content for "exposure." Which maybe is nice in the short term, but it doesn't take long before you hit the plateau on that.

There's also the issue of whether exposure on a site like that is what you'd want as a writer.
I was convinced by another former editor over there to re-publish a one off post on EJ last year about the Off the Mat RNC/DNC controversy, and really the only reason I did it was because I wanted the issues to be considered by a broader audience. Of course, it wasn't sensational and crass, so it didn't get a lot of attention. And the readers that did comment mostly thought I was a "downer" or "hater." Which to me demonstrated to low level of intelligent debate and consideration that EJ is now fostering.

If Waylon truly wants good content and depth, the criticisms you and I and others have had of his leadership are valuable. However, he can probably continue for awhile if his main focus is dharma candy and controversy. Because there's no shortage of writers who will pump out junk for a few months for free. And given the high end mission, he'll also be able to keep attracting just enough quality writers who'll stay for a bit as well and bulk up the content.

Eventually, it will burn out and folks will move on to the next big thing. But in the meantime, Waylon will make some money and stay in the spotlight.

Ethereal Deviant said...

I've just been asked to write for EJ, and now I am seriously questioning it. I already had my doubts, but these posts and everything you guys are saying reinforces my belief that they may not be the right platform for my voice.
And I don't want my words to go to waste.

Nathan said...

"I've just been asked to write for EJ, and now I am seriously questioning it."

I hear you. EJ keeps on going because enough good writers offer content to balance out all the rot and fluff. If Waylon actually paid those writers, I'd have less of an issue with the whole thing because sometimes offering good content on questionable platforms is worth the risk as a writer.

EJ is more risk than reward for us writers (other than some digital hand claps.) I will say that a few of my fellow writers from the book project 21st Century Yoga gained some readership through writing at EJ. How much? I don't know. But I can't say it's a total wash. Although I don't think any of them write regularly for EJ anymore.

At the end of the day, the most important thing is to decide if you think you're work would have an impact there. The lone article I offered there got next to no attention, and I only offered it because the intern soliciting me had gone rouge, and was trying to bring more challenging work to the platform. What I realized was that my core audience - the people most likely to care about what I had to say - aren't likely to be found at EJ.