Comments: Week of August 24, 2009

1. For a president who was elected as a uniter, not a divider, Barack Obama sure causes a lot of dissension among magazine readers. Jennifer Senior’s look at the new president’s “flood the zone” communication strategy (The Message Is the Message,” August 10–17) ignited the comments section on Many expressed their concern that Obama was spending too much time on multimedia promotion. “Your title is perfect. It is the ‘message.’ Unfortunately, that’s all it is,” said one commenter. “He doesn’t seem to have come off the campaign trail. He’s presented ideas but no plans,” lamented another. “He should be working hard on getting Americans employed again,” instructed a commenter, “but that requires him to be out of the limelight most of the time, working at his desk and on the phone.” But most rejected this criticism of the communicator-in-chief. “What President Obama is doing is commonly referred to as ‘leadership,’” said one supporter. “Now we have a very public, vocal, present president—with a lot on his plate—who is spending a good deal of time and effort communicating with his constituents. As it should be.” Another noted, “Obama is a president willing to speak to the people, and he speaks well. You may not agree with him, you may think his speeches are long on erudition and short on specifics (legitimate complaints), but this is not a man who leads by fiat. He lays out his philosophy and he engages with his constituents, and that means all of us, blue staters and red staters.” Another commenter defended the communications strategy: “One of Obama’s campaign promises was transparency. Often these TV appearances, interviews, and web 2.0 initiatives are supporting the pith of his platform—transparency. Of course, no administration will be completely transparent, but he’s had more transparency in the first half-year than the last administration ever had.”

2. Readers got equally worked up over Gillian Laub’s photo essay on Visiting Day at Trail’s End Camp (Visiting Day August 10–17), not about the photos but about the characterization of the camp as a “spa.” Most commenters were camp alumni or parents who were protective of Trail’s End. “It is unfortunate, especially in these trying economic times, that much of the article focused on excessive costs and snobby comments,” wrote one, “as opposed to the growth and development that the kids learn in the camp environment.” But a few were grateful for the pictures and the summer memories they evoked: “Laub’s photographs are filled with the beauty of the day.”

3. A representative of Landmark Education wrote in to express its extreme displeasure with how it was described in Bryant Urstadt’s story about the hot yoga-apparel brand Lululemon (Lust for Lulu,” August 3). Urstadt suggested that, to put to rest the persistent allegations that Landmark is a cult, the self-help group should “embrace and thus defuse the term.” This was meant playfully—and in no way as endorsing the allegations—but, according to Landmark, it was “absurd and totally irresponsible.”

4. Hugo Lindgren’s introduction of a new way to tell if the economy is improving (Hot Waitress Economic Index,” August 10–17) came under fire. “This is actually offensive. The only hot girls in this city are the ones who rely on their friends to pay for everything,” fumed one commenter. “This article is gross,” said another. One soul, however, stood up in defense of the waitress index: “Finding this article offensive means that you find reality offensive. This article isn’t making a value judgment, it’s making an observation that anyone who lives in NYC and has eyes should agree with.”

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Comments: Week of August 24, 2009