We have a plan — sometimes

Oct. 1, 2003
We have a plan. The real debate about it is whether we follow it. For example, every summer I devise what is known as an editorial calendar, which is inserted into another document called a media kit.

By Mark Hartley

We have a plan. The real debate about it is whether we follow it. For example, every summer I devise what is known as an editorial calendar, which is inserted into another document called a media kit. When finished, the media kit is distributed to advertisers. Once I've written the editorial calendar, I pay scarce attention to it. The reason why has to do with the premise that I can gaze into a crystal ball in July 2003 and predict what information readers want in December 2004; I don't think crystal balls work. As far as I can tell, the only real purpose of a media kit is to reassure advertisers that RDH magazine is not going to deviate into a magazine for, say, dermatologists.

The media kit helps prevent the following conversation from taking place: "Listen, Bubba. Maybe I didn't make myself clear. Yes, my company does make that super-duper prophy paste, and we'd like to sell some of it. But about the only thing our super-duper prophy paste doesn't do is clear up acne."

By the way, we've published articles about multiple uses of floss (usually a hygienist lamenting that patients use dental floss for everything except flossing teeth). It seems strange that no one has written about additional ways to use other dental materials and equipment. I have some gadgets that ought to be able to start a bonfire, if someone would just tell me how to do it.

We have a plan. Generally speaking, I know what will appear in an issue of RDH at least three months before you do. There are a few surprises along the way, where I will slip in a last-minute article because I think you need to read it now instead of 90 days down the road.

What isn't ever planned is correspondence, as in the "I'm going to sit down and give that editor a piece of my mind" correspondence. I love it so. The Readers' Forum is easily my favorite part of the magazine. Letters are very unpredictable. The topics can be astonishing. In addition, the timing and volume of correspondence is not something you incorporate into a "plan." Some issues contain many letters, and some just a few.

In August, a reader by the name of Cathy Point wrote a letter about her disgust with how dentists too strictly enforce limitations on rendering patient care.

That pushed some buttons. Some of my favorite lines from the responses to Point in this issue are:

• "Yes, I guess I am that stupid, but I have been known to throw little temper tantrums from time to time. This does allow me a few weeks with a moderate schedule and some time to build up frustration before the next tantrum."

• The same writer also noted, "When I attend continuing education, all I hear are complaints on one side and how hygiene is the most rewarding career on the other. There's also my favorite 'How to love your job again' subject, not to mention the 'Would you suggest a career of hygiene to others?' "

• Another writer observed, "I think most times when hygienists feel they are asked to do too much in an appointment, the real problem is they feel unappreciated for what they do. The doctor feels his highest-paid employee is just that — overpaid."

• A third letter author offered, "Dentists can have larger profit margins when dental hygienists' work is paid for through dentists' establishments and is done quickly and at poorer quality. Far too many employers take advantage of that situation."

Those letters lay it on the line, don't they? In early September, a USA Today poll asked Americans what they dread more: Mondays, the April 15 tax deadlines, or visiting a dentist. Dentists were the most dreaded by a sizable margin. Mondays, of course, interrupt pleasant weekends as the shrill whistle from the factory sounds off. Some people don't mind the intrusion of tax deadlines because they actually get money back from the government. But, still, dentists are dreaded that much? One interpretation of the survey is that America is saying, "Bore me to tears with a job and take whatever taxes you want out of my wages — just don't send me back to the dentist." If it were up to me, I would encourage a hygienist to be the best he or she can be. Those "control freaks" are too intent on ruining a good thing — a wonderful dental hygienist who can help take the word "dread" out of making an dental appointment.

Keep writing us!

Mark Hartley is the editor of RDH. He can be contacted at [email protected].