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Veg News’s Editorial Staff Quits

Filed under: Media Stupid
(image pilfered from Forgotten NY)

Is anybody home? (image pilfered from Forgotten NY)

In the middle of a nasty ownership fight, the last thing VegNews needed was the mass resignation of its top editors that occurred on Monday. In a seemingly coordinated action, Elizabeth Castoria, Jennifer Chen and Anna Peraino left the magazine. The news broke after Chen tweeted it to her 1,600+ followers.

The magazine’s website, which has yet to be updated, but hey, it’s not like they have the word “news” in their oh wait — still lists Castoria as its managing editor, Chen as senior editor, and Peraino as online editor. I guess it’s hard to update your masthead online when your online editor has quit.

As vegans have probably heard, the co-founders of the magazine, Joseph Connelly and Colleen Holland, can’t even agree on who gets to be called a cofounder. It’s a strange situation. How strange? Well, I decided to reach out to VegNews for comment on the resignations, so I went to the “Press Room” page on their website. Which lists Colleen Holland as the “press contact.” (It also lists her as co-founder, even though her co-founder says she’s not a co-founder.)

Maybe they’ve patched things up, I thought. Or at least settled their legal spat. So I sent off an email asking for comment on the resignations and on the status of their legal woes. I received a friendly reply back from Holland telling me that “given the pending litigation between Mr. Connelly and me” she was unable to address the matter and referring me to her attorneys! So much for any resolution. And for any “press contact.”

It’s hard to imagine an organization being more dysfunctional than asking the media to speak with someone who says they cannot speak to the media because they’re in a dispute with the organization. Not that we should expect more from an organization that claimed to support veganism and vegetarianism but instead used photos of actual meat that it passed off as vegetables, including going so far as to airbrush the bones out of a photo of actual ribs.

That story, broken by Quarrygirl two years ago, led not to an immediate apology but to a pathetic response defending the practice. It was only after VegNews must have realized they were jeopardizing their existence by sticking to their disgusting position that they finally caved on the matter. But by then it was too late and their credibility was gone. Anyone who is vegan for ethical reasons was now aware of the kind of people that must be running that publication. Even the New York Times chimed in on how VegNews was “eating a little crow.”

Oh, and one of the people signing that letter of apology? Managing editor Elizabeth Castoria, who chose to resign on Monday, and not two years ago when it was revealed that her vegan and vegetarian subscribers had been spending their hard earned money on photos of delectable dead animal flesh.

28 Comments

  1. Comment by

    Wally Moosegarner

    on #

    Insufferable Vegan. I’ve heard about you. You’re the new QuarryGirl, right? Cause she’s pregnant or something?

  2. Comment by

    AM

    on #

    I knew I didn’t like this magazine the first time I saw it.

  3. Comment by

    Mark

    on #

    I think you’re being a bit harsh and unreasonable bringing up the photo fiasco in the context of what’s going on now. It’s a difficult and unusual situation between the co-founders and the photo situation, resolved and dealt with, has nothing to do with the current mess and isn’t necessarily related in terms of “management style” or awareness.

    Don’t know why you seem to think it so appropriate to keep, ahem, ‘beating a dead radish.”

    I think your comments about “media contact” are spot on, though.

    Maybe some of your “compassion for animals” and worrying about “subscribers spending their hard-earned money on photo of delectable dead animal flesh” could extend to the people who resigned. That had to be a very difficult, emotional, and gut-wrenching decision. They are making a statement of purpose and support, which deserves our collective sympathy and respect, not sarcastic sideswipes and non-related issues of the past.

  4. Comment by

    Insufferable Vegan

    on #

    Hi Mark, what “statement of purpose and support” are you referring to? I reached out to Ms. Castoria for a statement and got no response.

  5. Comment by

    Tracie

    on #

    I’ve been a subscriber since the first year. I used to
    be thrilled to get every issue–it was my connection to my tribe when I felt isolated in a small town of omnivores. However, over the years I’ve come to perceive it as cliquish and pandering to its advertisers and those in the business of manufacturing vegan
    products. For instance, you can never count on a true review in VegNews because they gush about everything. And yet, on one of their company blogs, they dig/diss free items hopeful sponsors send them for possible review–they sound like bratty spoiled children
    in their comments. And yet they make out very well
    personally, like the time VitaMix sent all the staff brand new blenders (at a retail cost of about $450 each). Vegan chefs come and make them lunch while on book tours. All I’m saying is they’re not objective and it’s not therefore true “News” when you’re in bed with everyone. And since the two co-founders were literally in bed with eachother, I think this current drama amounts to a lover’s spat gone awry and over the top. Whether VegNews folds or not, this conflict might make space for a new publication and some competition would be refreshing. They would have to up their game and perhaps lose their cushy, smug attitude. I for one now subscribe to Vegetarian Times, which provides excellent vegan and vegetarian recipes and info
    in a beautiful format. I can overlook those including dairy and eggs by considering the big picture and I’m happy to flip thru its pages, free of the screaming judgement that seems embedded in every VegNews article.

  6. Comment by

    Elisa

    on #

    VN is such a mess. Where did you hear about Elizabeth Castoria and Anna Peraino leaving?

  7. Comment by

    Insufferable Vegan

    on #

    Hi Elisa, I’m not allowed to say. But I *am* allowed to say that I love your blog — what a great idea!

  8. Comment by

    Maria

    on #

    Wow, considering that the building pictured hasn’t even been their office in three or four years, you must be a super credible source.

  9. Comment by

    Wally Moosegarner

    on #

    Dear journalist, as a journalist I would like to ask you to a) not journal about journalism and b) reveal your journalistic sources for said journalisming.

  10. Comment by

    Insufferable Vegan

    on #

    Hi Maria, are you saying that Castoria, Chen and Peraino haven’t quit VegNews? They have. And if you’re not saying that they haven’t quit, then what’s your point?

  11. Comment by

    Karl

    on #

    (Disclaimer: Have not read VegNews in many years.)

    I must admit I never liked VegNews, as I found the articles to be very superficial and lacking in factual accuracy. The Netherlands is not a Nordic country, VegNews! Okay, that was just a small piece from 7 years ago, but it annoys me still. And everything was fabulous and awesome, and there was very little food for thought, like the whole magazine had been written by a bunch of summer interns. Also, their annual Veggie Awards annoyed me too, as it had way too many categories, so the result was always just another popularity contest, much like the magazine itself.

  12. Comment by

    mari

    on #

    Thanks for this article! Do we have any idea of why they quit?

  13. Comment by

    tofu and whiskey

    on #

    Whatever is happening over there, it’s sad to see a nearly mainstream (i.e. gets lots of views/eyes) vegan magazine spiraling. We’re all in this together, trying to live vegan lifestyles as best we can, learning new ways to do it, and removing the stigma. Basically: bummer. Hope the mag survives, or something else takes its place. Also, agreed, that’s their old office, not that it’s super important to the nature of this post.

  14. Comment by

    quarrygirl

    on #

    For the record, I’m not pregnant.

    Thanks for the info, IV! Sounds like VN is a total mess…as usual.

  15. Comment by

    Dev

    on #

    Its a advantage of the twitter to spreading the smallest news around the glob. Hope this will not affect the magazine too much in tact.

  16. Comment by

    Matt Ruscigno

    on #

    Maybe there’s behind the scenes drama I am not privy to, but why the hostility toward Veg News? Sure, the photo thing was dumb, but as a vegan community we’ve moved on, no? I don’t agree with everything they do, but aren’t we all on the same team?

    Sounds to me like they are going through some serious bullshit- which happens when romantically-involved folks become business partners. Why not support them in this shitty time instead of denigrating them?

  17. Comment by

    Mary Finelli

    on #

    Really, what an ugly, snarky post.

    VegNews exists to promote veganism, and it is very accomplished in doing that. The problems the staff is experiencing are very unfortunate. Hopefully the publication can transcend them. Your magnification of them only exacerbates it.

    The post confirms your name, Insufferable Vegan, and is a very poor reflection on so-called SuperVegan. I’d chalk it up to professional jealously but it’s dubious that “professional” is an accurate term to apply to you or SuperVegan.

  18. Comment by

    Insufferable Vegan

    on #

    Hi Matt. I thought about it a bit and no, I don’t think we’re all on the same team. I think many vegans are in it for the health and don’t care that much about animal welfare concerns. I bet some vegans who do care about the animals beat their kids or significant others or cheat on their taxes. It’s hard to take a group that probably numbers in the millions and say we’re all on the same team. And I think it can lead people to excuse things that shouldn’t be excused.

    I respect your viewpoint and even moreso your ability to move on from the photo thing. But I don’t see it as dumb. I see it as contemptuous of their customers and fellow vegans. I think it speaks loud and clear to the kind of people these are, especially given the first defiant response before issuing their so-called apology to save their financial asses.

  19. Comment by

    Insufferable Vegan

    on #

    Hi Mary, thanks for your comment. I disagree with your premise that VegNews exists to promote veganism. I think that VegNews exists to make money for its owner. That was made clear to me by the meat photo incident, and if you’ll recall (or you can click the link in my post) their first defiant response was to cite the costs. In other words, better to trick their readers with photos of real meat than keep a few less bucks in their pocket. Frankly, if you can’t see that, you’re pretty darn naive.

    I also have to disagree with your statement that magnifying their ownership and editorial problems only makes things worse. The late Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis said, “Sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants,” and I think that holds true here as well. And it’s particularly troublesome to be advocating against shining a light on problems when those problems are occurring in a publication with the word “News” in its title.

    What you’re doing here is such a classic example of blaming the messenger that it makes me wonder if you have some type of friendship or relationship with the people at the magazine. Where’s your hostility toward the ownership for treating their fellow owners and readership this way? Maybe it doesn’t bother you to think that you may have salivated over a photo of a beautiful vegan dish only to learn that you were actually salivating over the photo of a dead chicken that lived a life of torture, but it bothers me deeply.

    As consumers, vegans have the right to spend our money where we want, and not to be tricked into directing our money toward photos of tortured animal flesh. It troubles me to think about those chickens being systematically abused, then slaughtered, then cooked, and then made to look appetizing. I would hope that would trouble you, too.

  20. Comment by

    Mary Finelli

    on #

    The matter of the photos is water under the bridge. VegNews acknowledged and apologized for it.

    The staffing problems are internal matters. You’ve only mentioned that they are happening but have not explained what the actual cause of them is (i.e., who/what is to blame), so the “light” you claim to be shining on them is not an illuminating one. You just sound like you have some old axe to grind with VegNews. When I first started reading your commentary (which was posted elsewhere) I, in fact, thought it was something the meat industry had put out. It’s not at all helpful. Rather, it’s harmful.

  21. Comment by

    Insufferable Vegan

    on #

    Hi again, Mary. I don’t know where you get your information. VegNews knew the photos were meat and did not “acknowledge it” until Quarrygirl *revealed* it, and then as I said but which you’re in denial about, they were defiant and only apologized when forced to. Maybe this is water under the bridge to you but it isn’t to people who care about ethics.

    You call the post “ugly” and SuperVegan and myself “unprofessional” — but what weight can your words carry when the ownership of VegNews which you defend with every fiber of your being has done things that are so shockingly ugly and unprofessional but which you refuse to address? Did you ever read that HuffPost story about the legal battle that I link to, or are your powers of denial so strong that you refuse to believe what’s going on?

    You never answered my question as to whether or not you know the owners of VegNews so I’ll assume that I’m right. Your response is typical, actually, because I’ve found that only friends of the people discussed in articles care enough to leave such nasty comments.

    I’m glad you find my commentary to be harmful. It’s supposed to be harmful to apologist “vegans” like yourself who are standing in the way of progress. As for your theorizing that I’m part of the meat industry, you’re close. I’m actually part of the meat photography industry and I’m still upset about the loss of revenue I suffered after VegNews was forced to stop using my photos. If only other vegans were like you and didn’t care about unethical practices I could still be making millions!

  22. Comment by

    Jason

    on #

    Interesting article, but I caught a typo. “Anyone who is vegan for ethical reasons” should read, “vegans”. There is no other reason to be vegan, but for animal rights reasons.

  23. Comment by

    M. "Butterflies" Katz

    on #

    I picked up a recent issue that someone brought to our vegan educational center, and I hid it. I was embarrassed, it had little to do with the animals (the reason for being vegan) and too much about making money.

  24. Comment by

    al fair

    on #

    I’m still really confused about what is being said here. do you think the editorial staff didn’t know about the meat pictures and now we should feel bad about whatever made them all quit? are we just excited the magazine is falling apart because the meat thig was so egregious?

  25. Comment by

    Jenn

    on #

    I agree with Mary Finelli:

    “Really, what an ugly, snarky post.

    VegNews exists to promote veganism, and it is very accomplished in doing that.”

    I have a lot of friends and coworkers who are always asking me questions about what it’s like to be vegan, and what type of recipes are out there, and what kind of products, etc. And I always share my VegNews magazines with these people as a way to show them that there is a whole world out there that revolves around being vegan and that it’s not hard at all to make the transition. I believe that the magazine is a great guide and resource for most people who are interested in the vegan lifestyle. It makes being vegan look cool and easy.

    For the already hardcore vegans who are vegan for ethical reasons (like myself), of course we do not turn to VegNews for the important information. VegNews is like the People Magazine of the vegan world. But hey, I admit, I enjoy reading People Magazine once in a while, and I definitely enjoy reading VegNews every other month when it arrives in my mailbox.

  26. Comment by

    Emily Nolan

    on #

    interesting and sad to see this happen!

  27. Comment by

    unethical_vegan

    on #

    “but instead used photos of actual meat that it passed off as vegetables”

    “Anyone who is vegan for ethical reasons was now aware of the kind of people that must be running that publication.”

    your mean-spirited post is like a caricature of the “ethical” vegan who “loves animals” but somehow manages to “hate people”.

    “There is no other reason to be vegan, but for animal rights reasons.”

    jason, with that kind of attitude it must burn your buttocks to find yourself outnumbered by *VEGANS* who also give weight to ecological, utilitiarian, health, and spiritual arguments.

  28. Comment by

    Cathy

    on #

    Just for the record any reputable journalist/magazine paper should be liable to at least print where the sources of their stories/images are coming from. If we’re putting aside the fact the “ethical” vegan – it’s just journalistic integrity that went down the drain. Readers are putting an amount of trust in the editors writings and photos that it ultimately breaks the bond of trust between reader and writer.

    In any case, it’s pretty sad that the company looks like it’s in shambles. And the little background given seems like it might have been due to some corners being cut somewhere a long the line and just all around lack of organization.

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