“Guess which Minnesota Playwright was invited to BLOG for Beliefnet?” Kristine Holmgren wrote on Facebook in early January. “Yup! Your favorite cupcake, me!!! I’m negotiating “terms” right now…!”
Beliefnet staffers “were very excited about me” blogging for them,” Holmgren told me on Wednesday, a day after negotiations broke down over use of the word “feminist.” The editors and marketing people “gushed” over her portfolio, which included columns that Holmgren says had been picked up by the Chicago Tribune and Baltimore Sun.
“I said to them [during a group interview], ‘You’ve got to know that I’m a Presbyterian pastor, but I come to the world as a feminist.’ They said, ‘That’s fabulous. We want a wide range of views on the site.’” (Beliefnet, which was briefly a News Corp. property, was acquired by BN Media in 2010. It calls itself “the leading website for spirituality, inspiration and emotional wellness.”)
Two days ago, Holmgren got this email from Beliefnet marketing and business analyst Sharon Kirk:
We’re ready to get started on the header for your blog however first we need the title of your blog and any creative direction you may have (i.e. colors you want to include, any themes, a headshot, etc.). I believe you and Jana previously tossed around a few title possibilities including “Feminist Pulpit Notes.”Holmgren replied: “How about – “Sweet Truth – Thoughts of a Faithful Feminist” – ?”
While I agree that title is certainly straight forward, I think it would resonate with our readers more if the title was a bit “softer.” Our readers are looking for editorial that’s uplifting, motivational, inspirational, etc. and I think your blog will perform better if the title speaks to that aspect of your blog. Do you have any ideas along those lines?
Kirk had problems with that, too.
I love “Sweet Truth” however I would suggest changing the tag line or deleting all together as I’m concerned about the negative connotation that our readers may associate with the word feminism. In addition, we’ll want this blog to focus more on Christianity/spirituality as opposed to issues related to feminism. What do you think of simply “Sweet Truths with Kristine Holmgren”?“I think we need a conversation about this,” Holmgren told Kirk. “Please phone me.”
The pastor/writer says she asked Kirk over the phone why she had a problem with “feminist.” The Beliefnet marketer said she didn’t, but that “we know our readers are offended by the word.”
Holmgren tells me: “I asked, Why did you contract with me? I made it very clear who I am. I said, I’m afraid this is a dealbreaker. I said was I stunned. I felt like I was talking to somebody from 1955.” (I emailed and called Kirk for comment, but have not heard back from her. I did the same with Beliefnet marketing vice president Brandy Grenier, who hasn’t replied.)
Holmgren announced to her Facebook friends Wednesday that the Beliefnet deal was off:
I spoke a few moments ago with the contact at BeliefNet. She told me – not only can I not use the word “feminist” in my title, I cannot use it on the blog.
“The word offends so many people,” she said. She said I should come up with a word that was “softer.” I told her I didn’t think there was anything “softer” than feminism; a word that denotes equality for men and women and respect for children and families. She said “I agree, but. . . ” so I told her their inflexibility on this was a “deal breaker.” She regretted my “feeling” on this (by the way – - this isn’t a “feeling.” It’s a “thought system.” Some people’s kids!!! ) and said, “We can conclude this without rancor.” I said, “Oh, no we can’t.” I’m writing about this one.