1. What’s The Canine Review’s relationship with Trupanion (Updated April 2023)?
In 2022, Trupanion, Inc. purchased a discounted group subscription for a limited number of its members as a trial program. Although Trupanion had no control over any content The Canine Review published, because the company was our largest subscriber in 2022 and for part of 2023, we disclosed the subscription purchase in every article Trupanion and/or the pet insurance industry was covered.
If you are among the leaders who read TCR, I propose that you follow where Trupanion has left off. Offer our subscriptions to your stakeholders at a group rate. Support strong, independent journalism for journalism’s sake, even if on occasion you perceive our reporting as not in line with your financial interests.
Good journalism is what builds public trust in institutions. Rather than issue press releases telling consumers about your core values and transparency, show them by inviting scrutiny inside your own house.
We believe everyone benefits from the kind of sunlight we have shown we can shine on the pet industry as its sole independent watchdog and ombudsman; we know your constituents, stakeholders, and consumers will respect you more for supporting us – it’s what our data found about Trupanion’s constituents, even though Trupanion ultimately chose to turn away the accountability and trust only our brand of journalism can bring.
2. I like your reporting, but what’s up with the paywall and price hikes?
The kind of quality journalism TCR provides is unique. It’s a service. We rarely publish reports and information available any place else unless we’re first to report it or because our reporting offers significant and newly reported information. So, yes, we charge for the excellent service we provide.
Our readers are veterinary professionals, industry leaders, decision makers, prominent academics, journalists, investors, etc. and rely on our reporting.
There’s also never been a legitimate news business in history that’s been sustainable without substantial reader revenue, and it makes sense. No quality journalism business with high ethical standards – strong, independent reporting that holds powerful, wealthy institutions accountable – can operate without significant subscription revenue, thereby removing strings as well as any perception of strings to a particular group.
3. Is it true that TCR bans the use of the term “investigative journalism” ?
Yes. It’s redundant. A journalist’s job is to investigate.
The term is a product of a new phenomenon born out of digital communication or journalism by email, Tweet, etc. which is intended to distinguish actual reporting from what most ‘reporting’ is now, in the post-Internet age. Woodward and Bernstein were not “investigative journalists.” Bob Woodward was a cub reporter on the metro desk assigned to cover a local burglary, Watergate. Woodward would be the first to say – and does say – that journalism is about showing up and outworking every person around you. All journalism demands showing up and being a surrogate for your readers.
4. What’s special about TCR?
Business Insider says we’re “terrorizing the pet industry.”
Well, yes and no. The kind of reporting we do is unique. We are the only journalism focused on the pet industry that provides honest, careful reporting that doesn’t cater to advertisers in an industry that’s full of abuse and devoid of meaningful regulation. That takes careful, time-consuming reporting (including incessant calls for comment – in order to be fair).
Business leaders may not always appreciate our persistence, but we remind them that we seek comment because we want their voices in our reports, and because we’re making every attempt to be fair, and because we endeavor to report the most comprehensive, accurate stories.
5. What is “ethical journalism” in practice?
Here’s a checklist. Strong, independent, ethical journalism offers stories in which all of the following are consistently true:
- Raising questions on important but long-overlooked issues:A powerful institution is asked to be accountable on an issue that it had never considered to be an issue. The story is raising the issue for the first time and most often, the issue involves money and/or high stakes policy.
- New information:The story provides information that’s never been released, and the information is coming from people who don’t want to give the reporter the information. In other words, the story is not a press release dressed up as reporting.
- Spotlight on the “bad” but alsothe “good”: You can find multiple examples in The Canine Review of stories in which the reporting has significant negative impact on some pet industry providers BUT ALSO examples of reporting that impacts a company positively. In other words, the reporting shouldn’t consistently line up on one side supporting one set of interests. We follow the facts and report them without fear or favor.
- Quality journalism is also a credibility and accountability business, which means our newsroom is an open book. We’re eager to share with the public any information of interest about how we gather our news with the important exception of sources to whom we commit protection of their identities (full or partial).
6. If I wanted to buy a large number of subscriptions for my company, clients, or members of my organization, could we get a discount?
Yes, of course. The same deal we made with Trupanion is available to any other company willing to support our unique brand of journalism. And we want to acknowledge Trupanion for being the only corporation to date to do so, even if they decided to stop when our reporting was no longer convenient for them.
We would charge 50% off the regular price for ten to 25 subscriptions: 65% off for more than 25 subscriptions up to 100. Above 100, we would offer deeper discounts. Please contact us by emailing me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org .
If you’re trying to tell the world you care about accountability, transparency, and you have a business in the pet space, put your money where your mouth is and support TCR by purchasing subscriptions.
7. Your stories about the FDA’s DCM information blackout are interesting, but they leave me with more questions than answers about my dog’s diet. Which foods are safe? Which foods are dangerous? And do you have an agenda?
Even veterinarians are confused. However, there is no “up in the air” or ambiguity when it comes to DCM in dogs. The exact causal link has not been identified, but so many facts have been gleaned. We get our information from the most knowledgeable, authoritative veterinarians who are most in a position to know, federal government including public records, impacted owners, and beyond. We cast the widest possible net.
We have no dog in this fight except for Nellie, who would like to thank her own gp, Dr. Duffy, for recommending a food that complies with the World Small Animal Veterinary Association’s Global Nutrition Council guidelines. Hint: there are only five foods that comply with WSAVA guidelines!
One of our key sources is Dr. Lisa Freeman, a leading veterinary nutritionist at Tufts University. Her latest blog is here:
8. Is TCR hiring?
YES. The kind of reporting we do is unique, though. If we think you have the right stuff, we will meet or exceed whatever you’re earning now, plus equity.
9. I only want to read one article. Why can’t you sell individual articles?
We’d have to charge you something like the equivalent of a half year subscription, given the cost of setting up and maintaining accounts. Moreover, our goal is – and must be – to build a sustainable subscriber base. You can, however, always cancel a paid subscription and get a pro-rata refund equivalent to the portion of your unused annual subscription.
10. Are you really independent and not sponsored? What if Purina wanted to pay you $1 million to collaborate on a story about nutrition? Do you do that?
Short answer, NO. If you’ve never heard the saying, “If you’re not the customer, you’re the product,” The Canine Review proves that concept. Our primary revenue source is always going to be subscription revenue (readers). TCR now looks to a new stage focused on both sustaining and expanding by hiring a small but extremely talented team of reporters.
We are open to and welcome inquiries from potential investors and partners. However, interested parties should know that we remain committed to full transparency as far as our readers are concerned. They will always be told clearly who pays for what. If we ever were to write about someone or something with which we have a financial relationship and whose interests are affected by a story we write, a disclosure will go in the story.
Moreover, nobody – no investor, no friends, no one — other than editors and staff reporters will be able to access forthcoming reporting, let alone be able to influence it.
10. Why do you write about VIN News? Are you trying to discredit veterinary professionals? Do you think veterinary professionals are stupid?
It’s never our intention to discredit – nor is it our agenda to endorse or promote – anyone or anything, least of all to discredit veterinarians. TCR covers VIN News as a media outlet, not VIN, the community for veterinarians.
11. Other reporters allow me to review my quotes before a story is published. Why doesn’t TCR allow after-the-fact quote review?
We are aware that VIN News has an unusual policy of requiring after-the-fact quote approval, which gives anyone it interviews the ability to have whatever they are about to be quoted on submitted to them for approval before a story is published. To those who may have been misquoted or have had a quote taken out of context, which may seem reasonable. But any professional journalist will tell you that this undermines good reporting by giving people a chance to rethink something they might have said in a fit of candor. (Remember the old Washington rule: a gaffe in Washington is when someone tells the truth!). Or in a situation in which, let’s say, a company has been hit with a product recall, it may allow the multiple people involved to “get their stories straight” or to have the PR people craft a good dodge. At a minimum, it produces spin and corporate-speak instead of spontaneity, or it delays stories while subjects ponder whether to approve a quote or how to recraft it.
Note: For those who want a better understanding–at least from the perspective of the journalism profession–of after-the-fact quote approval, the best primer on this topic is The Times’s former executive editor Jill Abramson’s staff memo issued in September 2012.
12. Why should veterinarians and others care about press ethics?
If the only place where the leaders of your professional association and their staff experts paid to address all the critical issues facing the profession will discuss these issues is with a “news service” that assures them of this kind of carefully scripted platform, it becomes that much harder for policymakers, animal health professionals, students, fellow veterinarians, and those you serve to get credible, accountable information. And if all other reporters have to submit questions only to the AVMA PR office, which can then craft the organization’s official answers, this only compounds the problem.
Both Kremlin-like practices allow AVMA officials to avoid the test of putting their views to people who will ask them straight questions and report what they actually say, not what they or the organization wish, on reflection, that they had said.
13. How did you get that story about The Dodo calling vets a “moral hazard” ?
Documents. Raw source material. To elaborate, SERFF (System for Electronic Rate and Form Filings), which is a convenient, mostly free, searchable database of insurance filings. When insurance companies want to make changes of any kind, they are required to file for approval with regulators with the departments of insurance in every state in which they wish to implement the change.
Add this URL to your bookmarks https://www.serff.com/serff_filing_access.htm –> The URL brings you to a map of the United States. From this screen, you can select departments of insurance by state. However, for Florida, Washington, and Massachusetts, for reasons not clear to us, access is not provided directly from this page. If you Google “Massachusetts” and “department of insurance,” you will get to the appropriate page:
California is a good state to start with because it would difficult for a pet insurance product to operate without approval in California. That said, some companies that wish to avoid attention will file in states with low populations of insured pets. It’s important to cast a wide net. Look for filings in California as well as in states like Arizona and Vermont where a company might hide a product.
After you click on California, you will land on this page: California Department of Insurance. This goes for all states. Look for “SERFF Filing Access” and click the URL. You’re looking for filings.
Some documents to get you started: