Opinion & Essays
- Oct, 1995 Issue #36
REACTIONS TO OUTSIDE MAGAZINE'S
"LOVING THEM TO DEATH"
by: Jon Krakauer
(Opening the magazine to the article, the first thing that stands out is a picture that
looks like it was taken at a concentration camp. Then the words "Death," and "Murder" are prominent in the headings. Then, an explanation
it was the result of the author's investigation into wilderness programs. One of the persons intensively interviewed by the author
of the story was Larry Wells, head of Wilderness Conquest who has been running successful wilderness programs for 24 years without
serious incident. The following is Larry's reaction to the story as it appeared in print, and his disappointment that the negative
image presented in the article was contrary to what he felt he had been led to expect -LON.)
I feel the article used stark emotions and pictures (the bloated body of Michelle) to grab
their audience. I feel Jon did a good job on research and gaining accurate information. But, the slant towards Mormans and the industry
has a very negative, inaccurate and unfair effect.
Personally, I know the negative media, CNN and Dateline, hurt me very hard this year financially.
This is because of the cancellations as a result of those media programs. I expect the OUTSIDE magazine article to have a similar
I have worked since 1971 to create a good solid treatment program for adolescents
and their families. I have worked hard to create a safe program both physically and emotionally, and have spent years presenting the
concept to agencies and other interested people.
It is very frustrating that all that I and numerous others have done to constructively
help troubled teens are being downgraded by the media's focus on three tragedies resulting from a small group of people with flawed
The most frustrating thing to me are the families that are not going to get the healing
they need because of other's greed, and the need to sell magazines, and TV time.
- Larry Wells, Wilderness Conquest 801-587-2801
(My first reaction on seeing the article was it was just another attempt to sensationalize on a tragedy. Although the author seems
to be fairly accurate in the selected information that was presented, the journalism standards seem to be low because anything positive
and instructive on wilderness programs was buried in the text, and usually balanced with something negative and often hearsay, while
anything appealing to fear was given prominence. Another example of sloppy journalism was the author and magazine missed the opportunity
to explore what I think are two other important stories. By a herdlike following of the rest of the media in sensationalizing a tragedy
again, they missed the opportunity to talk about kids saved from living on the streets, from frying their brains on drugs, and from
too close an involvement with gangs. They also missed the opportunity to clearly instruct their readers that these paramilitary programs,
where the deaths occurred, are rogue programs with very little in common with reputable wilderness programs, which have outstanding
safety records, and which have routinely criticized a paramilitary approach. Emphasizing that there are vast differences could have
given parents information to help them avoid the dangerous programs, instead of just giving the impression that ALL wilderness programs
are dangerous, insensitive, and to be avoided.
In a follow up call after the article was published, the author told Larry Wells that the
magazine cut out about a third of his article, and most of that was positive to the industry. In a sense of fairness and as a small
attempt to supplement their journalistic standards, Woodbury Reports will be happy to print the material that Outside magazine cut
out of the original draft. I also would like to print other reactions to the article. - LON
Copyright © 1995, Woodbury Reports, Inc. (This article may be reproduced
without prior approval if the copyright notice and proper publication and author attribution accompanies the copy.)