My Reply to Modern Ferret Controversies
Opinion
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Pepita Pew says "Where is my MF?"
Reason for this article
This article is in defense of the magazine Modern Ferret. A lot of people on the FML have complained about many different things in the magazine. Instead of writing my letter to the FML I'm posting it here so that people can write to me directly with comments.





First of all, I can personally attest to this as a regular submitter toward the magazine -- the people who write for Modern Ferret don't get paid. Now at first this may sound bad, but it actually tells you something. The people who send submissions -- be it artwork or articles or photos -- are doing so simply because they love ferrets. The most submitters get is a few free issues or maybe a prize provided by a sponsor. "The other ferret magazine," I have been told, pays its writers. Although I personally wouldn't mind getting paid (who wouldn't) I have respect for the fact that everyone who submits to Modern Ferret has done so out of love for ferrets rather than love of money. Rather than being a regular hired writer trying to fill a quota, the writers voluntarily submit articles that they feel would be interesting to other readers.
(I honestly don't believe that MF could afford to pay contributors, not that they won't. I self-published a book and it cost $3.50 per copy...and I had to pay that up-front, before anyone had bought the product. Self-publishing is NOT cheap and is generally NOT a way to make money.)


There of course is an alternative magazine that people who do not like MF can get. I got the premiere issue of "that other ferret magazine," thinking perhaps I would like to subscribe to both, and decided immediately I would not be a subscriber! It was mostly information information information (information overload). I used to subscribe to that publisher's magazines but quickly learned that they had a huge bias toward:

(a) Purebred cats

(b) Individual parrot species (whole issues devoted to one species rather than parrots in general -- very boring to read if you own only one or two different species of parrots)

MF isn't like this -- they don't dedicate one issue to one coloration of ferrets (for example: "our special all-chocolate issue!"). It would get boring.
Not to mention that "the other ferret magazine" had lower quality paper (and less color photos), more ads, and was way over my head medically.Modern Ferret isn't like that. It's mostly fun -- and ferrets are fun, so it's great to have a fun magazine about ferrets rather than one I don't enjoy reading. I read practically every ad and every article in Modern Ferret the day I get it -- with the other magazine I didn't even enjoy reading it (plus it was the same price as MF). My pet rabbit ripped up "the other ferret magazine," so I guess she didn't like it, either.


Others complain about how much Mary and Eric write about themselves in the magazine, thus making it not seem as professional as "the other one." I am also a writer, and my writings reflect who I am personally. Pet-wise, our pets often end up the way we are because of who we are. For example, I have a parrot who likes to dance while I play the piano and wave her foot around when I say "hi." Who we are and what we do with our pets influences what our pets are like. I personally like hearing about the Sheffermans' lives and what they're up to, especially since it's limited to only a few pages ("Mary's Page" and "Minding Your Own Business"). Their lives are all about ferrets.


Not to mention that Mary and Eric are nice people. I've communicated with them through e-mail and I'm always astonished at how nice they are to me. Not to mention that Eric has a very serious disease, which I can relate to since I have a somewhat similar disease (although, for me, since birth) which has made it very hard for me to do much outside of the house. The fact that they are continuing to make this magazine despite health problems truly shows how dedicated they are to the subject.


Tiffany Taylor and Harry Anderson have been responsible for two of the main MF controversies -- Tiffany Taylor because she is a Playboy Playmate and Harry Anderson because he advocated eating ferrets in the magazine. I am against pornography but I thought Ms. Taylor's interview was handled well and did not promote her lifestyle. I was, like others, surprised at the Harry Anderson interview and centerfold, but I know that some people like to mess off for Halloween. Portraying dead ferrets is probably no worse than what these people who are complaining send their kids out as on Halloween -- mummies and witches and vampires. However, I have to admit that I would have preferred to read about Harry Anderson in a realistic vein and find out how he really got his ferret(s), etc. The article made me a bit confused about his relationship with ferrets! Still, showing that famous people have ferrets is a big plus. People who recognize the famous person on the cover may purchase the magazine even if they don't have ferrets, out of curiosity.


Still others complain about the photos in Modern Ferret. For example, a rabbit near a ferret. True, my ferret would kill my rabbit if she had half the chance, but that's just because she's never had a playmate and wasn't raised with rabbits, and thus wouldn't realize that rabbits can't play rough like ferrets can. As MF has said, Marc M. raises his pets together, and as I have personally seen on Martha Stewart Living, the ferrets basically ignore the other animals.
We might as well say the cover on #23 of Modern Ferret is dangerous because the ferret standing in front of the amplifier is going to blow his ear-drums out. Oh and it's evil because Barbie gives girls a bad view of what it is to be a woman. (This is tongue-in-cheek.)


I have many times complained to magazines about their content (after all, we're paying customers and I do feel that we have the right to complain -- however, just to the editors and not in a public forum) and once was very stunned to find an editor complaining about me on a mailing list and calling me names! Mary and Eric are not like this. I feel that they operate very professionally and are not "stuffed up" like some editors are. I feel that they are open to input. After all, they did realize that the Harry Anderson issue would be controversial and put a warning on the cover.


A lot of times people complain for the sake of complaining. If you do want to complain to Modern Ferret I think that you should complain to them directly and not to stores, or the FML. They have devoted their lives to making Modern Ferret and don't deserve bad publicity (unless they seriously do start including recipes for ferrets in their magazine or something like that, which I doubt). For example, some people on the FML recently are campaigning to run MF out of business just because of the Harry Anderson centerfold, which I think is very sad. Please don't unsubscribe if only one issue/article made you upset. Chances are it was tongue-in-cheek, which I have noticed a lot in MF. Instead, send a complaint letter to whatever magazine you are upset with, and let them know if they do it again (or don't correct a mistake) you might unsubscribe. Don't unsubscribe without giving a warning. It really doesn't do any good to do that. Write a well thought out, clear-headed letter. Usually it's best to sit back and wait for a few days before writing a letter, to cool your temper down and get you thinking clearly.


Like I said, I have written complaint letters before (although not to MF), and here are some tips on how to write a complaint letter to ANY magazine in a convincing manner:


1) Let someone else read the article in question to make sure that you didn't misinterpret it. Re-read the entire article -- not just the part in question -- to make sure you got the gyst of what it was saying. Example: Pet Life magazine recently got bawled out because a subscriber said they had a bias toward pure-bred animals. She sent a complaint letter and unsubscribed. Of course, this isn't true. Pet Life's models are oftentimes mutts and mixed-breeds from shelters. My cat is a mutt and their cat articles often apply to him. (Unlike a previously mentioned, but unmentioned, publisher that likes to talk about purebreds too much.)

2) Wait a week or so without writing to let yourself cool down. For some people cooling down only takes a few hours or a day. Just make sure you're thinking clearly so your letter doesn't come across as angry or militant.

3) Write the letter.

4) Let someone else proof-read it. Ask if your letter sounded polite yet still got to the point you were trying to make.

5) Send it via snail-mail and include a SASE if you'd like a reply. Remember to indicate whether or not you want the letter published. When you submit a letter to a magazine it is automatically their property and theirs to publish, but often if you write to a magazine that you'd rather they didn't publish it, they'll respect your wishes or else write "name withheld."


Here are reasons I have found to complain for magazine issues: incorrect information (example: I found a poem attributed to "anonymous" when I knew the author's name); a differing opinion than the publisher (example: I wrote to tell a magazine my differing opinions on communion); excessive spelling errors and typographical errors (example: a magazine I used to subscribe to had 5-7 errors per page) -- I feel this is a valid complaint if it is excessive, since there is no excuse not to use a spell-checker; if you were misquoted (example: I wrote an article on ferrets that was stolen, used without permission, and taken completely out of text along with editorial notes insulting me as a person). These are just a few of the things that I think are worth complaining about. For all of my complaints, except the spelling error one, my complaint/correction letters were published in the magazines with corrections. So, as you can see, I think it's OK to complain about some things. But it should be things that are repeated over and over without correction, or things that need to be addressed because they are incorrect.

As a finale, I have seen things far more disturbing in Time (a newsmagazine) including a woman's breast and entire nek-ked back-side, not to mention skulls, the ravages of war, and an immature interviewer they have that always belittles women and asks them sexual questions. I feel much more comfortable reading Modern Ferret because the most we ever see in there is naked ferrets!


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