“We screwed up,” admits VegNews after QuarryGirl exposé of use of meat photos

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, May 2011:

 

HOLLYWOOD, SAN FRANCISCO–“Do you like
looking at pictures of meat?” opened the
Hollywood vegan blog www.QuarryGirl.com on April
13, 2011.
“How about a juicy beef burger, covered
in egg mayonnaise with cow fat dripping off?”
QuarryGirl continued. “Perhaps some soft, meaty
chunks of chicken breast in chicken stock and
cream? What about a pork sausage, oozing in pig
fat, fresh from the slaughterhouse?
“You can find all this in the nation’s
premier print and online vegan magazine,
VegNews,” QuarryGirl charged. “Veg News has
written tens (possibly hundreds) of articles
extolling the virtues of a vegan lifestyle,
while purchasing rock-bottom priced stock photos
of meat, eggs, dairy, and other completely
non-vegan things.”


QuarryGirl supported her allegation by
posting numerous illustrations from VegNews,
side-by-side with the same images and their
original descriptions in stock photo catalogs.
“Oh, and it’s not just the web site!” QuarryGirl
stipulated. “We spot-checked some photos from
the magazine, and every single one was made from
real animal products. This situation exposes a
clear issue with the editorial integrity of Veg
News,” QuarryGirl alleged.
QuarryGirl began her investigation, she
said, after “One of our readers e-mailed to say
that he had noticed a photograph on the home page
of VegNews.com that was from istockphoto.com, an
inexpensive royalty-free photography vendor. He
recognized the photo as being a real meat beef
burger.”
The reader e-mailed to Veg News and “left
a comment on the post saying that the burger was
meat rather than vegan, expecting to be thanked
for doing them a favor,” QuarryGirl said.
“Minutes later, his comment mysteriously
disappeared. So he left another, which was also
deleted. He emailed again, and got this
response:
“Thank you for your interest in VegNews.
However, your inappropriate and mean-spirited
commenting has violated the policy of VegNews,
and we have and will continue to remove any
future comments.”
QuarryGirl left a similar posting on the VegNews web site.
“Twenty minutes later, this comment was
also deleted,” QuarryGirl said.
In 2009 VegNews honored Quarry-girl.com
for exposing the use of non-vegan ingredients by
several Los Angeles-area vegan restaurants.
QuarryGirl pledged that the award would be
returned.
“Irate vegans took to blogs, Twitter,
Facebook, and other online forums to vent their
fury,” summarized John Collins Rudolf of The New
York Times. “Commenters criticized the editors
as contributing to public perceptions of vegan
food as bland and unappealing.”
But VegNews cofounder and publisher
Joseph Connally at first did not take the
criticism seriously.
“I have to admit I didn’t think it was
that serious,” Connally told Michelle Norris of
the National Public Radio program All Things
Considered. “I thought it was almost like a late
April Fool’s joke.”
The use of stock photos, Connally
asserted, “is a common practice in all
publishing. I mean, a stock photo that looks
like whipped cream is probably shaving cream. A
stock photo that looks like ice cream is probably
Play-Doh. Fifty years ago,” Connally said, “my
mother worked for McCall’s magazine as a food
stylist, and she tells me stories about them
using hairspray and undercooking things to make
them look better.”
Observed Norris, “One of the things that
people seem to be very upset about is a recipe
for vegan barbequed ribs. They say it’s hard to
buy your explanation that this might have been a
mistake, because it looks like these ribs had
been PhotoShopped, that someone had removed the
bones to make them look more vegan.”
Said Connally, “That is the one instance
that anything like that’s happened. It happened,
I think, two years agoŠan 11th-hour decision,
when we couldn’t get a photo, and we made a
mistake. We admitted it, we should not have
PhotoShopped the ribs out of those seitan steaks.”
On April 14, twelve hours after the
QuarryGirl exposé, VegNews posted that “The
entire VegNews family is deeply saddened with the
dialogue that has transpired. VegNews is a
privately owned, independent publication with no
funding or investors. Publishing a magazine is
extremely costly-with exorbitant costs for
printing, postage, paper, and productionŠ.Yes,
from time to time, after exhausting all
options,” VegNews admitted, “we have resorted
to using stock photography that may or may not be
vegan.
“In an ideal world we would use
custom-shot photography for every spread, but it
is simply not financially feasible for VegNews at
this time,” the statement continued.
“In those rare times that we use an
image that isn’t vegan, our entire (vegan) staff
weighs in on whether or not it’s appropriate,”
VegNews claimed. “It is industry standard to use
stock photography in magazines-and, sadly,
there are very few specifically vegan images
offered by stock companies. In addition, it’s
exceedingly challenging to find non-stock imagery
that meets the standard necessary for
publication. We would love nothing more than to
use only vegan photography shot by vegan
photographers, and we hope to be there soon.”
The statement was co-signed by Connelly,
associate publisher Colleen Holland, art director
Sutton Long, and managing editor Elizabeth
Castoria.
But ANIMAL PEOPLE, with just a fraction
of VegNews’ claimed paid circulation and volume
of web hits, has never used a stock photo in
nearly 20 years of publication, and has never
captioned a photo as being anything it was not.
The VegNews explanation did not impress
Friends of Animals president Priscilla Feral,
either, as author of the vegan cookbook Dining
With Friends (2006), which went through two
printings and is now sold in an updated edition.
“My daughter Jane photographed our three
cookbook covers and various recipes inside,
which I cooked and plated. We hired another
photographer for some shots and fussed over
selecting the best ones,” Feral told ANIMAL
PEOPLE.
Admitted VegNews on April 18, “We
screwed up. With regard to our use of symbolic
imagery in VegNews, our readers got it right.
We wholeheartedly apologize. We assure you that
we will never again use non-vegan photographs in
VegNews. Here’s our commitment to you: Recipes
in VegNews will be represented only by custom
vegan photography. Count on it. All stock
images used in the magazine and website will be
vegan. We will make sure so that you can be
sure. VegNews will build and host a vegan photo
bank to assure the availability of vegan stock
images.”

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