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  1. #1
    Outsourced Program Manager tmartini's Avatar
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    Kiplinger's Personal Finance Article
    Hi Everyone,

    My family was featured in the August 2006 "My Story" column (p. 104) of Kiplinger's Personal Finance. I wanted to share with you a letter I recently wrote to their editor(s):

    ------------------------

    Dear Editor,

    My family was profiled in the "My Story" section of your August 2006 edition. While we were happy to have the opportunity to tell our story to your audience, we were disappointed that the article ignored the aspect of our story that we were led to believe would be the focus of the article. Namely that we started a website (Alex's Coupons) back in 2001, which not only helped to pay for our daughter's treatment for Leukemia, but today helps raise money for Cancer related charities. Every month Alex's Coupons donates $1000 or 10% of our profits (whichever is larger) to Cancer related charities that helped us when we were in need. This is the story that we wanted told, as we feel it shows how even in the worst of times, it's possible to turn a negative situation into a positive.

    We are also upset with how Duke University Medical Center was portrayed in the article. While we had our problems with the Duke billing department, we have nothing but praise for the medical staff there, in particular Dr. Joanne Kurtzberg, who heads up the Pediatric Stem Cell Transplant Program. Over the years we have referred dozens of families to Duke for treatment and will continue to do so in the future.

    Sincerely,

    Todd & Andrea Martini
    Alex's Coupons
    http://www.alexscoupons.com

    ------------------------

    I have one piece of advice for anyone who's asked by Kiplinger's Personal Finance to be a part of the "My Story" column. Make sure you ask to see the final version of the story before it goes to press! From what I've been told the Editorial Director decided at the last minute to change the focus of the story to our problems with the Duke Medical Center billing department without consulting his staff. It would be an understatement to say that we're very disappointed with this decision.

    Hope everything is going great. Take care.

    -- Todd
    Todd Martini
    Digital Marketing Manager
    Jones Soda Co.
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  2. #2
    Prince of Content Vinny O'Hare's Avatar
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    Hi Todd

    Just read the article, Got to love how they can turn on a story. I seen Dateline on NBC do the same thing to a friend of mine.

    At least they didnt say the doctors were bad at duke, in fact they didn't mention them at all.
    Vinny O'Hare - OPM - Contact Info email: vinny at teamloxly.com ~ 702-582-6742 Twitter

  3. #3
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    Sorry to hear that Todd. Maybe you can ask them to write a supplemental where they write their retractions. Don't beat yourself up, it isn't your fault they did this.

  4. #4
    Outsourced Program Manager tmartini's Avatar
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    Hey Vinnie,

    Amen to that. The Editorial Director decided to make it a negative story by focusing on how we were screwed by Duke's billing department. Of course all of the positive aspects of the story (e.g. Duke saved Alex's life!; Alex's Coupons helped pay for her transplants; Alex's Coupons donates money to charity) were ignored. My wife was ready to strangle someone after reading the article. She thinks it makes us look like ingrates for complaining about Duke's billing department after their doctors saved Alex's life and I have to agree. Next time I won't be so trusting!

    -- Todd
    Todd Martini
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  5. #5
    Outsourced Program Manager tmartini's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Michael Nunez
    Sorry to hear that Todd. Maybe you can ask them to write a supplemental where they write their retractions. Don't beat yourself up, it isn't your fault they did this.
    Thanks Michael

    I sent them my letter to the editor last week and it should be published in next month's issue, but I don't think they're going to print a full retraction. The writer of the article is going to take the original story that he wrote and try to get it published in another magazine (maybe Entrepreneur). He was pretty upset with the end result too, as they took a positive story and turned it into us *****ing about hospital bills. The only reason I even mentioned the billing problem was to describe how Alex's Coupons helped us get out of debt after Alex's 2nd transplant. Next time I'm interviewed I'll make sure to not even mention that!

    -- Todd
    Todd Martini
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  6. #6
    Merchant & ABW Ambassador
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    Congrats on being selected. Not everybody gets to be on there.

    On the down side, it sucks that they cut and snip whatever you mentioned and by cutting and snipping just certain words, they can piece together something you did not mention.

    I do not think u should ask for a retraction of the article but maybe an amendment but rather a correction in the next issue. It could be a line or 2 of correction in the following issue.

    Congratz once again

  7. #7
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    Kiplinger's did a story on me in 2000...they downplayed my success too. I got follow ups from others but really just did not want to get into it....Some people just dont want to believe it anyway.

  8. #8
    Merchant & ABW Ambassador
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    i guess it would be in your best interest to CYA and request for an agreement

  9. #9
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    Todd,
    Your story is so good and it is a damn shame that someone used it to whack Duke over the head with.
    I do a fair amount of work for the ACS and have seen similar things happen to incredibly positive and moving stories.
    It is a shame when this happens, but all you can do is what you did, make your stance known and let the idiot who changed the story take the heat.
    I am a big fan of your story and so are many others. Tell it every chance you get. Don't let this fool hinder your efforts. More times than not it will be told correctly.


  10. #10
    Outsourced Program Manager Angel Djambazov's Avatar
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    Hi Todd,

    I also recommend sending a copy of the editor to the Publisher and/or Editor-in Chief. Often times section editors over rule reporters in their departments to make the stories more "juicy". Usually the Publisher and/or Editor-in-Chief tend to be focused on the public image aspect of the publication. A letter like the one you sent will get their notice which will in turn be focused on the section editor who was responsible. I am not sure if Kiplinger's has an Ombudsman position, but if they do I would also send a copy to that person.
    Scooter's right keep telling the story, it is an important one and not just to our industry.

    Angel
    Angel Djambazov
    Managing Edtior ReveNews
    OPM for Keen Shoes and Graphicly.com

  11. #11
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    What sucks about this is that it is in print and it will be there forever. They could issue an apology or something after you fussy about it but nobody ever reads the font sz 3 apology which is hidden on the last few pages

  12. #12
    Outsourced Program Manager tmartini's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by FairFieldGetaway-EricEwe
    Congrats on being selected. Not everybody gets to be on there.

    On the down side, it sucks that they cut and snip whatever you mentioned and by cutting and snipping just certain words, they can piece together something you did not mention.

    I do not think u should ask for a retraction of the article but maybe an amendment but rather a correction in the next issue. It could be a line or 2 of correction in the following issue.

    Congratz once again
    Thanks Eric, I have a feeling that I'm probably not going to get much more than the publishing of my letter to the editor. Hopefully the author of the article will be successful in getting the original story published in Entrepreneur or some other magazine.

    -- Todd
    Todd Martini
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    Jones Soda Co.
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  13. #13
    ABW Ambassador Sam Bay's Avatar
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    I do sympathize with your story and what you have been through, but I'll be blunt. You seem more upset that it did not turn out to be a promotional piece for your website than anything else.

  14. #14
    Outsourced Program Manager tmartini's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sam Bay
    I do sympathize with your story and what you have been through, but I'll be blunt. You seem more upset that it did not turn out to be a promotional piece for your website than anything else.
    Actually we're most upset that what started out as a positive article about how we started a business that helped save our daughter's life. saved us from financial ruin and raises money for Cancer related charities morphed into a negative article bashing the billing department of the hospital that saved Alex's life.

    -- Todd
    Todd Martini
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  15. #15
    Outsourced Program Manager tmartini's Avatar
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    Smile
    Quote Originally Posted by Sam Bay
    I do sympathize with your story and what you have been through, but I'll be blunt. You seem more upset that it did not turn out to be a promotional piece for your website than anything else.
    Hi Sam,

    For about 30 seconds after reading your post I thought about flaming you, but then I realized you probably don't know anything about my family or how and why Alex's Coupons was started, so here's a link to a short synopsis of our story (well as short as I can make it!)

    http://www.alexupdate.com/backgrnd.htm

    ...and also a writeup on why I started Alex's Coupons:

    http://www.alexscoupons.com/why.html

    As for Kiplinger's, I want to make sure you understand that this article was not our idea. An editor at Kiplinger's contacted us after reading that we had donated $2000 to Starlight Starbright Foundation. The editor told us that they wanted to do a story about how we had started Alex's Coupons to help pay for Alex's medical treatment and how we were now donating 10% (or more) of our profits to the charities, like Starlight Starbright, that helped us out when Alex was sick. After a 3 hour interview, 4 hour photoshoot and numerous followup calls and emails, we were told that the story was all set to go. We didn't find out that the story had been changed to a hatchet job of Duke's billing department until we received a copy of the magazine in the mail. That is the major reason why we got upset.

    For all we cared they could have just told our story without naming our website, but that's not what they did. Instead they picked the most negative aspect of our experience and focused almost the entire article on it. We've told our story on numerous occasions, without any mention of Alex's Coupons, to thousands of people. We've flown to Washington DC and lobbied our Senators and Congressman to increase funding for Childhood Cancer research. We have spoken in front of a Congressional subcommittee and at fundraisers, charity auctions and other events. Our story has been written about in People magazine, local newspapers and everything in between. We didn't do all of this to get rich, we did it to raise awareness of Childhood Cancer, so hopefully some other family wouldn't have to go through the 5+ years of hell that we went through.

    I also want to be completely honest and say that Alex's Coupons is the primary source of income for my family and if I'm given an opportunity to promote it, and I feel it's the appropriate venue for it, I will promote it. I do this because I want the site to continue to be a success. I worked my butt off on this site for five years and all the hard work has been rewarded. The success of Alex's Coupons saved us from financial ruin and today it pays our bills, raises money for charity, and raises awareness of Childhood Cancer. All in all I think that's a story that should be promoted.

    Take care...

    -- Todd
    Todd Martini
    Digital Marketing Manager
    Jones Soda Co.
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  16. #16
    Outsourced Program Manager tmartini's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by UncleScooter
    Todd,
    Your story is so good and it is a damn shame that someone used it to whack Duke over the head with.
    I do a fair amount of work for the ACS and have seen similar things happen to incredibly positive and moving stories.
    It is a shame when this happens, but all you can do is what you did, make your stance known and let the idiot who changed the story take the heat.
    I am a big fan of your story and so are many others. Tell it every chance you get. Don't let this fool hinder your efforts. More times than not it will be told correctly.
    Thanks Uncle Scooter!

    We'll keep telling our story, although from now on I think I'll leave out the part about Duke's billing department screwing up our credit rating!

    Hope everything is going great. Talk to you soon.

    -- Todd

    P.S. It's very cool that you do work for ACS.
    Todd Martini
    Digital Marketing Manager
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  17. #17
    Outsourced Program Manager tmartini's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Onlineshoes MGR
    Hi Todd,

    I also recommend sending a copy of the editor to the Publisher and/or Editor-in Chief. Often times section editors over rule reporters in their departments to make the stories more "juicy". Usually the Publisher and/or Editor-in-Chief tend to be focused on the public image aspect of the publication. A letter like the one you sent will get their notice which will in turn be focused on the section editor who was responsible. I am not sure if Kiplinger's has an Ombudsman position, but if they do I would also send a copy to that person.
    Scooter's right keep telling the story, it is an important one and not just to our industry.

    Angel
    Hey Angel,

    Thanks, I'll do that. From what I understand it was the Editorial Director who overruled the original story just before it was to go to print.

    I also wanted to thank you again for all your help last month. Most of you probably don't know this but Alex's Coupons and Onlineshoes.com did a co-promotion last month to raise money for Starlight Starbright Children's Foundation. Alex's Coupons donated 100% of our commissions from Onlineshoes.com sales for the month of the June and Onlineshoes.com matched that donation. Overall we raised $500 for Starlight Starbright. We (Alex's Coupons) then added another $500 to make it an even $1000 donation. All in all it was a great experience and there's no way we could have pulled it off without Angel.

    I'm negotiating with an online Music Store to do a similar promotion to benefit another charity, so hopefully this was just the first of many promotions like this!

    Hope everything is going great. Talk to you soon.

    -- Todd
    Todd Martini
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  18. #18
    ABW Ambassador Sam Bay's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by tmartini
    Hi Sam,

    For about 30 seconds after reading your post I thought about flaming you, but then I realized you probably don't know anything about my family or how and why Alex's Coupons was started, so here's a link to a short synopsis of our story (well as short as I can make it!)

    -- Todd
    Hi Todd,

    You certainly do not need to flame me, because I know your story and I have the utmost respect for you for being able to do what you and your family have done. I merely earn an income from my affiliate biz, while you started at devastation time, pulled through it. And, I'm so glad that now your daughter is well now and you're a happy family again. I read the first paragraph of your your letter to the editor and that's how it sounded, to me.

  19. #19
    The Eternal Optimist zimmy's Avatar
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    Hi Todd!
    I am so sorry they did that to you and your family. That was a very wrong twist to take. Grrrrr.... Anyone who knows you knows your cause is what motivates you. Publicity is always nice but publicity for the right reasons.

    Do you have an assurance they will print the letter to the editor? Hopefully that will go a long way in setting the record straight, and people will get to your site and learn what you and your beautiful family are all about. (((hugs)))

    -C



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  20. #20
    ABW Ambassador erninator's Avatar
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    Sorry to hear about the way you and your family were treated. Have you considered sending the right story to their competitors?

    I know how you must feel. I had a similar experience when I designed a custom home that was featured on the cover of a major Log Home magazine. The owner, an interior designer took full credit for my architectural work. My name was omitted, but the guy who intalled the bathroom sink was mentioned. The magazine got their just rewards eventually, but I won't mention the details in public.
    ~Ernie

  21. #21
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    Kudo's to you
    Todd, applause and kudo's to you for your support of the cancer charities. My family is dealing with similar problems, and I have web based products where I donate all profits to charities.

    I thought I learned my lesson about magazine interviews after the first one. Then I agreed to a second one with another magazine, and it was even worse. When an author tried to convince me to be the focus of a chapter in his new book, I flatly refused.

    It's too bad that we can't rely on some of these outlets to spread the message in the proper context, but that's the way the ball bounces. Good luck to you and your family. And thank you for your kind support of the charities.

  22. #22
    Outsourced Program Manager tmartini's Avatar
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    Smile
    Quote Originally Posted by zimmy
    Hi Todd!
    I am so sorry they did that to you and your family. That was a very wrong twist to take. Grrrrr.... Anyone who knows you knows your cause is what motivates you. Publicity is always nice but publicity for the right reasons.

    Do you have an assurance they will print the letter to the editor? Hopefully that will go a long way in setting the record straight, and people will get to your site and learn what you and your beautiful family are all about. (((hugs)))

    -C
    Thanks C! I don't have it in writing, but I've been assured that my letter to the editor will be printed. Of course we'll see how much they edit out! LOL

    Hope everything is going great. Talk to you soon.

    -- Todd
    Todd Martini
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  23. #23
    Outsourced Program Manager tmartini's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by erninator
    Sorry to hear about the way you and your family were treated. Have you considered sending the right story to their competitors?

    I know how you must feel. I had a similar experience when I designed a custom home that was featured on the cover of a major Log Home magazine. The owner, an interior designer took full credit for my architectural work. My name was omitted, but the guy who intalled the bathroom sink was mentioned. The magazine got their just rewards eventually, but I won't mention the details in public.
    Thanks E, the author of the original story is shopping it around to other magazines right now, so hopefully someone will pick it up.

    Sorry to hear about your bad experience. Sounds like we're not the only ones who have experienced this (see raywood1's post above).

    Take care...

    -- Todd
    Todd Martini
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  24. #24
    Outsourced Program Manager tmartini's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by raywood1
    Todd, applause and kudo's to you for your support of the cancer charities. My family is dealing with similar problems, and I have web based products where I donate all profits to charities.

    I thought I learned my lesson about magazine interviews after the first one. Then I agreed to a second one with another magazine, and it was even worse. When an author tried to convince me to be the focus of a chapter in his new book, I flatly refused.

    It's too bad that we can't rely on some of these outlets to spread the message in the proper context, but that's the way the ball bounces. Good luck to you and your family. And thank you for your kind support of the charities.
    Thanks Ray!

    Sorry to hear that you're dealing with something similar to what we went through. If there's any way I can help, please let me know.

    I have to admit I'm pretty gun shy right now about doing additional interviews. It's not something that I really enjoy doing (I'm not really an extrovert!), but at the same time I know that a lot of good has come from telling our story, so I guess I'll just be more careful next time.

    Hope everything is going great. Take care...

    -- Todd
    Todd Martini
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