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Tim Gilmer
Bully Pulpit: Who Speaks for New Mobility?
June 1, 2009 Bully Pulpit

Walt Whitman once wrote: “All I mark as my own you shall offset with your own/ Else it were time lost listening to me.” The purpose of “Bully Pulpit” is to allow the editor to speak freely on any topic relating to disability and to encourage reader feedback. But readers should not mistake any personal views expressed here — including religious belief — as being an official editorial position of New Mobility.

The truth is NM has never taken official positions. The magazine has always been about informing, empowering and upholding our readers’ individuality and sense of community, not persuading.

Here is a succinct version of NM’s mission statement, which defines our journalistic parameters: New Mobility encourages integration of active-lifestyle wheelchair users into mainstream society, reflects the world of disability-related arts, media, advocacy and philosophy, informs and empowers readers so they can manage health concerns, obtain appropriate technology, assert legal rights, and participate in all areas of life.

How we translate this mission into stories is a democratic process. In mid-year our editorial staff — working from our homes — gathers ideas for next year’s stories. Some ideas come directly from the four of us — as we also write for the magazine — and others come from freelancers and readers. We discuss each idea in a lengthy conference call and trim well over 100 ideas down to about 50. We are a diverse group, with unique viewpoints, a kind of cross-section of the disability community, so our discussions are lively and spirited.

It is my job to take the “final” list of 50 story ideas and work them into an annual editorial calendar, keeping in mind who will write the stories and when, the cost, the mix of stories, and more. I then discuss this early draft with Jean Dobbs, our editorial director, and together Jean and I gradually shape it into a publishable format.

However, the magazine business is a dynamic process — new story ideas flow into the mix throughout the year — and it is highly collaborative. The end result is the work of four editors, several freelance authors, seven columnists, a number of photographers and illustrators, graphic artists, ad sales staff, office employees, a printing company, a publisher, and more. This guarantees the final product is representative of a team, a company dedicated to a shared mission. No single person controls or dictates the magazine’s content.

My role, as editor, is to uphold the mission, quality and focus of the magazine — a challenging job, filled with endless detail. At the end of each month, I look forward to using “Bully Pulpit” in a way that I hope will generate interest and provoke discussion.

To that end, and just for the record, here are my personal views on some important issues: I support responsible embryonic stem cell research for therapeutic purposes; I oppose government-sanctioned physician-assisted suicide; I support all forms of disability advocacy except drive-by lawsuits; I think abortion should be considered a disability issue (and a women’s issue) since it is a life-and-death matter for fetuses with anomalies (unborn babies with disabilities).

What do you think?

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