It's no surprise that last month's commentary on discounting and my response to Dentaltown's May cover article generated a strong reader response (see Letters to the Editor starting on page 4) both in LMT and among Dentaltown followers. That's exactly what the media thrives on. Clearly, though--and my desire here is that you recognize this--we media folks each have wholly different agendas in sharing the printed word.
Trade magazine publishers are not all cut from the same cloth. We have different reasons, values and goals in doing what we do. My reaction to what Dentaltown prints as suitable content offends my own principles of acceptable publishing practices. It upsets me to think that a reader might assume that what one magazine does, other magazines may do. It is not the case. Not at all.
Back in the days when the late Farrah Fawcett was Faberge's company spokesperson, I was the editor of a cosmetics' industry magazine. A competing cosmetics' magazine sometimes printed a blank page with words something like: "This page is reserved for [the name of the advertiser] who was scheduled to advertise but then cancelled prior to the publication date]. Printing this notice caused great embarrassment to that advertiser and created buzz among members of the industry.
The publisher of that competing magazine was personal buddies with Faberge's CEO; he considered contact with him "off limits" to any other magazine. But somehow I managed to secure an interview with this CEO which ran in our magazine. A few months later, at an industry press conference, this publisher confronted me, upset that I managed this coup. To further illustrate his irritation, he threw a glass of liquor in my face.
Thus, to each his own. Some enjoy stirring the pot; some enjoy reading about things that create a stir. In the case of the Dentaltown article, it is hard to avoid "stir."
Words are powerful. The appreciation for clarifying our meaning is especially touching right now because the topic always reminds me of the late John Ness* who maintained that word definitions play a fundamental role in training technicians. John's appreciation for the importance of making sure we're all on the same page before delving into anything, particularly anything technical--or volatile--was spot on.
In this spirit, I'd like to clarify what, in particular, I find so objectionable about Dentaltown's volatile "interview" with Dr. Germany.
I am not fundamentally opposed to restorative work being done outside the United States. I feel all human beings have an equal right to make a living. I think it is actually a welcome relief for lab owners to have access to trained technicians overseas who can help with their workload. This is a real need; there is such a personnel shortage in our field.
Down the road I think offshoring will be less of an industry issue. U.S. lab operators have a definite advantage over offshore laboratories in that there is more of a need than ever to educate dentists and drive home the value of their services. As digital technologies take over some restorative processes, their faster turnaround time adds even more to the value equation.
Moreover, there's no real need for a dentist to take business out of the country. There are plenty of lab owners here who need the business and do fine work for--since price is this guy's "thing"--more than reasonable prices.
Dr. Germany seems to have a skewed sense of entitlement. He positions his comments to suggest that lab owners neither earn the right nor deserve to profit from the work they do. He insults the entire community by suggesting there's something bad about a technician who is also capable of doing auto mechanics. (Actually, I say good for that technician who is so versatile and skilled! Meanwhile, did he recognize that the guy probably has to hold down two jobs to make ends meet?)
So, for me, though I am totally appalled by the article, my reaction is not only about Dr. Germany. What is far worse is that Dentaltown provided the platform for this person to make broad, inaccurate generalizations about the integrity and capabilities of our lab community.
It offends me as the publisher of a trade magazine. The printed word is a powerful tool. As a magazine, our words have the ability to do so much good. We affect policies, practices, buying decisions and help keep you in the loop. We can choose either to ruffle feathers and shake things up or help chart the course for your business success by providing valuable, educational information. We all make our choices.
I want to say again that we're not all cut from the same cloth. We each have a value proposition that you can take or leave. It's what makes the world go 'round.