Published on: August 19, 2009
We had a fair amount of debate yesterday on MNB
about the case of Dr. Jason Newsom, the Florida doctor who lost his job as head of the Bay County Health Department in Panama City because he used an electric sign outside his offices to criticize – sometimes by name and brand – foods that he said contribute to the nation’s obesity problem. Because he targeted doughnuts and Dunkin’ Donuts in particular, he got fired because of threatened lawsuits by a county commissioner who owned a doughnut shop, and a couple of local lawyers who owned a local Dunkin’ Donuts franchise.
Newsom said that he doesn’t regret his actions, that railing against the causes of obesity was as much his job as educating the public about flu shots.
While I conceded that the doctor could have been diplomatic, I agreed with him on principle…which generated a lot of email from people who disagreed with both of us, some of whom seemed to feel that overweight people were being personally and specifically attacked.
All of which led to some more email…
user wrote:I do not understand people who report that they are overweight or obese and further believe others in the US are unfairly or maliciously targeting them as a big cause of obesity-related health problems. I agree with those that say the Florida doctor was out of line. He can do that as a private person, but not unprofessionally from his professional office.
Being concerned about increasing rates of obesity (particularly for children) is not "unfairly targeting overweight adults." Any more than being concerned about smoking, driving too fast in a car, etc. is unfairly targeting smokers and people who drive too fast or while intoxicated. Not everyone that smokes or drives a car irresponsibly dies from lung cancer or in a car accident, either. For a large percentage of people, however, smoking or driving too fast or while intoxicated can do damage to them and others. And is costly to them and to others as well, with their healthcare being a very significant cost.
I am genuinely sorry if some overweight people feel unfairly targeted. The statistics tell the story, however, and it is not one that says most people can be overweight or obese and not suffer some related health problem(s). The opposite is the case.
One of the most important groups at risk are children who are developing eating and exercising habits for a lifetime. This group cannot write letters to MorningNewsBeat, nor does it control its own healthcare environment to any significant degree. Childhood obesity problems and their causes deserve the attention of adults to create better opportunities to form good exercise and eating habits. Also to be considered are the overweight and obese adults that want help in reducing a proven health risk factor in their lives.
Responsibly addressing (not easy, but possible) the aspects in the lives of US citizens that encourage too little exercise and poor food habits makes sense for most of the population. That is trying to help most people, not unfairly targeting a few people.
user chimed in:We all wonder why health care will never get passed.... I've just lost 30 pounds medically and I'm no longer a diabetic II, fixed my fatty liver. All the medical care in the world wont help till people eat right. This includes eating good food, less food, less often. Trust me you really don't know how much of your life is hooked on food. As well as how much were being marketed to eat more and larger sizes. Fact is you eat more when you watch TV. True, not all over weight people are that way … but if you have a "roll" around you stomach and pretend you’re not eating too much you are just kidding, no, killing yourself... MNB
user Bob Hodgin wrote:In reading the comments on Dr. Newsom’s firing; his point may have been lost by focusing too much on donuts and Dunkin Donuts. It is true that moderation is the key and an occasional donut is ok and people of all shapes and sizes eat donuts. However, the fact remains that most (not all) overweight people are unhealthy. With 2/3 of our adult population and 1/3 of children overweight or obese we are suffering from a myriad of obesity related illnesses that go from bad joints from carrying to much weight to heart disease and cancer.
Perhaps not using the best approach, Dr. Newsom was bothered by the fact that adults set the examples for children and according to the CDC, one in three children born in the year 2000 will become diabetic and this current generation of children will be the first generation to live shorter lives than their parents – all because of how much and what types of foods they eat. Also, for the first time we are seeing the onset of heart disease in 10 year old children and the toll it takes on a child’s self-esteem is steep.
Speaking from experience, there is nothing good about being overweight as a child. The best thing we all can do is adopt good eating habits and be an example…you might be surprised how others, especially children, catch on.
Still another MNB
user wrote:Love him or hate him…he did get us talking…it got some very personal issues on the discussion table, and perhaps some understanding for other perspectives…and that’s a good thing…too bad he’s not around to keep the conversation going.
is filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, with CEO Mary Berner saying that despite the filing, it would be “business as usual,” with no layoffs, no salary cuts and virtually no impact on day-to-day operations. She said that the move was strictly a “balance sheet issue.”
I commented:The idea that Reader’s Digest thinks it can do business as usual and survive in the long term strikes me as a joke at best, and delusional at worst. My guess is that you would have to hunt very hard to find anyone under the age of 30 who reads Reader’s Digest on a regular basis or find it relevant to their daily lives – and it is almost impossible to imagine that they don't need to make major changes to their business model in order to have an extended and healthy life span.
They may have convinced themselves at Digest headquarters that this is just a balance sheet issue, but anyone with a computer knows that the world has passed Reader’s Digest by.
“Business as usual?” In 2009, any executive who utters those words ought to be shown the door. Because those words are a recipe for complacency, disaster and irrelevance.MNB
user Richard Sokolnicki disagreed, to put it mildly: Congratulations! You’ve done it again Kevin. You have somehow managed to criticize and characterize a company with a seemingly scant knowledge of its business. Your reaction to the Reader’s Digest bankruptcy uses the words “joke” and “delusional” and states that “business as usual” is a recipe for complacency. I’ve never read an issue myself, and they may very well have some strategic problems, but I probably have a better take on their businesses than you. (Note: I may have you in age by a few years.)
Reader’s Digest, even with a planned reduction in newsstand issues, is still the best selling magazine in the US. They also have published it in audio, large print, Braille – and digitally. (For those of you with computers!) I have also heard that they reach a sizeable upper middle income demographic. (Go figure!) In addition they are an extremely successful direct marketer that now includes Time-Life under their umbrella. Wouldn’t anyone love to have that mailing list?
As for magazines, they also publish “Every Day with Rachel Ray,” “Taste of Home,” etc. Magazines are a tough business these days, but I’m sure they don’t need your advice on that subject.
And then my favorite – “Weekly Reader.” You’ve heard of that, haven’t you? Out of touch - old fashioned approach you say. Well – they also publish “READ” magazine which has a very cool blog for the younger set. It speaks to their age group and has many engaging, interactive features. It has made creative connections directly to authors like R. L. Stine and Stephen King. (You’ve heard of him…?) You should check it out.
“Business as usual” for many things that RDA does may be the right thing. It’s hard to judge. Your issue may be that you perceive their (RD’s) content as old-fashioned. I guess that do-it-yourself, self-help, health, and cooking are old fashioned. (?)
One thing I can say is that they certainly have welcomed “anyone with a computer.”
Point taken. But I would point out two things.
One, they filed for bankruptcy. From where I sit, that suggests a problem. If their business is as robust and well-managed as you suggest, then bankruptcy protection wouldn’t be necessary.
Two, find me someone under the age of 30 who reads or even knows the name Reader’s Digest. (Okay, that is a bit of hyperbole. A lot of people under 30 may know the magazine because it is bathroom reading in their parents’ homes. But that isn’t my idea of a business model.)
I still think that any executive who utters the words “business as usual” is making a serious mistake. There is no such thing, not these days.
But your objections to my reasoning are noted.
user wrote:Sorry to hear, but not surprised. The only time I read this magazine is in my eye doctor’s waiting room. And rarely is it compelling enough to keep me interested past the door, AND I am well past the age of 30. In fact, I believe if there is anything else available I will reach for that first. Instead of business as usual, management should start looking for some way to become relevant today and tomorrow, if I had stock of this company “business as usual” would scare me enough to divest myself of any remaining stock.MNB
user Gary A. Narberes wrote:Your comment today on Reader's Digest about "doing business as usual and surviving...is a joke" may be close to the truth, however, isn't that what was said of radio after TV became the popular medium and Network TV when Satellite was on the forefront. The fact of the matter is, that many things we (individually) find insignificant in our own personal lives is significant in many others.
Sure…except that radio changed to respond to other media. And network television changed to respond to cable. And all of these media are changing to responds to and take advantage of the Internet.
Which really was my point in saying that “business as usual” is a dangerous statement to make.
Michael Sansolo yesterday used comedian Jackie Mason to make a point about clarity of information, which led one MNB
user to write:Sorry to focus on semantics, but I was confused by the last statement in Michael’s column: “Great comedians get rich mocking the complicated. Good businesses do the opposite.”
What exactly is the opposite of “mocking the complicated”? Praising the complicated? Mocking the uncomplicated?
I asked Michael and he responded:Good columnists are supposed to be clear and I guess I wasn't. The line should have read: “Simplify the complicated.”
Michael actually is ignoring the first rule of any good columnist.
When things aren’t clear, always blame the editor.