From the Editor: Boycotts and Story Arcs

By Andy Lien August 25, 2011

Categories: Our Affairs, Our Lives, Politics

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One of the lesser-known (but probably predictable) aspects of my job at Lavender is catching up on old issues, literally and figuratively. When approached with an idea for a story, I have to run triage. What have we already said about it? What is the scuttlebutt and what is the nitty-gritty? Who’s been covering it and what have they said? Where is the issue going? What good or harm might come of it? Have we given too much attention to it or not enough? Where should it go? When should it run? Who should write it? Is someone pulling my leg?

I have a well-thumbed stack of Lavenders at home for those times when I don’t have the whole 1995-2011 office library at my fingertips. Odd hours of the day and night, I page through them to educate myself. I’ve always read Lavender, just not with quite the attention that should be paid the publication as by its editor. This issue, we’ve got the 25th Anniversary of Duluth-Superior Pride written by Angela Nichols in response to a mayday call I sent out at the last minute. Articles about fall getaways to Stillwater, Lake Pepin, and Duluth (with a special piece about the Olcott House) each show new aspects of old towns. Café Levain…we may have covered it in recent years, but the news is that Adam Vickerman’s back. Wanda’s State Fairy Guide is new and darned darling. And, we’ve got great photos of the community, the latest and greatest from the arts scene, and thoughtful commentary and witty remarks from our gallery of writers.

Then, we’ve got Target. Corporate giving. The boycott.

I reached for my stack of 26 issues and shuffled through them for the era involving the Emmer donation. A handful of covers ask the question, “Boycott Target?” Beyond the covers, the answers are hashed out. What a good exercise, to read the coverage—it helps me to get to know the writers, the topics, and the readers much, much better. Thoughtful Letters to the Editor, biting requests for more transparency, the grey between the black and the white. Plenty of anger and betrayal with a healthy dose of reality that, no, corporations are not necessarily our friends. But, what else?

When John mentioned that he had a piece about Target in the hopper, I was pleased to find out that it was about the efficacy of boycotting Target. When referring to story arcs in communications and publications, I appreciate the fact that we’re coming to our resolution with the question we raised over and over last year—“Boycott Target?”

I’m well aware of the “slacktivism” that runs rampant on social networking sites. Saying I’m for or against something–while not actually doing anything about it in my daily life–can be seen as a slacker’s approach to activism. Effective? In some cases. Numbers count, when it’s a sentiment or a petition. But, what happens with boycotting? When the click of the mouse isn’t really the action required to constitute the actual movement or demonstration, is it effective? By joining the boycott, I am not boycotting. To boycott, I must abstain from making purchases. Right?

I’m not going to go around and survey folks about whether or not they boycotted Target, either by mouse clicks or by withheld credit card swipes. Some of us did, some of us didn’t. Would the backlash have been felt so fiercely had there been no button to click to Boycott Target? If people hadn’t withheld their business? What would have happened in a time without social networking? What do we need to know as we move forward toward Election 2012? What have we learned?

Was it a question that needed to be asked?

Those questions are an editorial outline for the year ahead of us. In this issue, to round out the discussion about the efficacy of boycotting Target, Kaitlyn also asked the question of local non-profit organizations: “How do you prefer to receive donations? Does it matter if it’s from the corporations, themselves, or their employee groups? What matters?” Next issue, we’ll ask more of the large corporations in Minnesota and find out what they have to say.

It’s good to ask, it’s good to know. The shades of grey are deep and varied.

Let me know what you want us to ask. I’ll put it through triage and see what we can do.

With thanks,
Andy

End Notes:
“Roadtripping,” as in “Roadtripping Lake Pepin,” might not really be a word. I’m trying to turn it colloquial to get away with using it as much as I do.

We were a wee late in getting our issue to print because we’ve got the FIRST photos of Ross Mathews taken of him after losing 40 pounds. Please go online to lavendermagazi.wpengine.com to read more of Bradley’s interview with Ross (in which he talks about his weight loss) and see more photos of his stylish self hot off the camera. They were worth the wait.

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