At least four of the six women featured in a Marie Claire article about healthy living bloggers said the magazine failed to adequately respond to an outpouring of criticism from readers.
"I think Marie Claire owed many of the people who took the time to write mature, level-headed responses a better, more thorough response," Heather Pare, who blogs at Hangry Pants, said in an e-mail to PR Junkie. "They did not address any of the legitimate concerns about the article raised by many of the comments with any real depth."
Those concerns are based on the article's notion that by detailing their sometimes extreme workout routines and eating habits--habits the story suggests may border on eating disorders--the bloggers are negatively influencing their readers' health.
The article appears in the November edition of Marie Claire and was published online this week. In a handful of days, the online version has provoked harsh criticism from readers, who have shared their opinions in blogs, tweets, and on Marie Claire's Facebook page.
Bloggers Pare, Meghann Anderson, Caitlin Boyle, Jenna Weber, Tina Haupert, and Kath Younger--all of whom are featured or mentioned in the article--offered their own takes on the story on their blogs. (Click on their names to see those responses.)
On Tuesday, the magazine responded to the criticism, saying: "This is a controversial subject, and we always welcome a good debate. Like every article published in Marie Claire, this one was researched and edited carefully over the course of many months, and we stand by its content. Thank you for letting us know how you feel--we are listening!"
The four bloggers who responded to queries from PR Junkie questioned whether the magazine is listening.
"I think the response only made the magazine look worse," Boyle said in an e-mail. "Marie Claire's response proves they [don't] care about ... talking about the truth of healthy living blogs or giving any validity to their own readers' experiences with reading or keeping a healthy living blog."
Weber said she wants to hear more from Marie Claire.
"They stand by what they wrote, but the primary demographic to which they write is very unhappy with them right now," she said in an e-mail. "You would think they would want to give their readers some sort of explanation other than just 'we stand by what we wrote.' They hurt feelings, stepped on toes and should know by now, that they were wrong. I'd like to see some sort of retribution from them."
Anderson said the magazine is missing an important opportunity.
"I wish they'd react to other people's thoughts and begin encouraging a healthy dialogue as the original article should have done," she explained. "Instead they are closing it up and walking away. It's as if they are saying it's out way or the highway and that isn't right."
For its part, Marie Claire has responded to the countless negative comments on its Facebook page. The magazine posted a link to FishBowlNY story on the controversy (which links to the original PR Junkie post about it), commenting, "Fair, balanced points re: our controversial (to put it mildly) Hunger Diaries story."
This morning, a Facebook user suggested that some of the comments left on Marie Claire's Facebook wall may have mysteriously vanished.
"I find it interesting that a lot of people's comments regarding the 'Hunger Diaries' are now missing," she wrote.
The magazine later wrote on its Facebook wall: "We actually haven't removed any comments (except for one that was violent in nature). Everyone has a voice here."
Marie Claire did not respond to an e-mail from PR Junkie requesting comment.
But beyond what they perceive as Marie Claire's refusal to continue the dialogue about healthy blogging is the bloggers' concern that the magazine got the story wrong.
Pare said the article contains "half-truths."
"For example, the author mentions a post where I wrote about throwing away a batch of cookies to demonstrate that healthy living blogs cover diet tips and food sabotage," she explained. "What the author failed to mention was that this information was in a post where my co-blogger and I concluded that food destruction is disordered.
"It's this kind of writing in the article that makes it difficult for me to accept Marie Claire's assertion that they stand by their content."
As of Wednesday afternoon, all three bloggers said Marie Claire had not contacted them. The companies that support their blogs with advertising and sponsor their Healthy Living Summit, which was discussed in the article, had reached out to them to express their support.
"Our sponsors, like our readers and other bloggers in the healthy living genre, know the truth -- that there are many positive aspects of healthy living blogging, which includes recipe and idea sharing, support, and friendship, as well as the consideration and concern for serious issues relating to food and exercise," Boyle said.
Jenna Weber e-mailed her comments after this story was published. The story has been updated to reflect her point-of-view.