Our Medical Work from 1866--1896

Our Medical Work from 1866--1896—No. 5

Editorial Policies and Problems in Health Journalism.

H. M. W., M.D. & K. L. J., R.N.

It was not an easy task that was under­taken by such a small group of people—that of launching a health journal. Not many physicians in America were well quali­fied as compared to present standards. A number of our doctors who were on the staff of the Western Health Reform Institute, opened at Battle Creek in the year 1865, had had only the most limited preparation required in that day. It was indicative, however, of the foresight of those early leaders to note that Dr. H. S. Lay, the physician chosen to act as editor of our first health journal, the Health Reformer, was one who had had a background of scientific training, and had established himself as a recognized member of the profession. It must be remembered that Doctor Lay was already extremely busy as the medical superintendent of the pioneer Health Reform Institute, and it was evident after the first two numbers of the paper that he was unable to give to his editorial work the attention that such a publication required. It may be also that he lacked interest in literary fields, for few articles appeared from his own pen, and even his editorials, while scholarly and practical, were limited in number.

Doctor Lay remained as editor only one year, and for the following two years the editorial responsibility was "under the super­vision of a committee of twelve." For an­other two years the number composing this committee was not designated in the journal. Records indicate that W. C. Gage was really the acting editor during this period of four or five years, although his name did not appear as such. It would appear that the committee of twelve may have been recreant in its re­sponsibility, and what was everybody's busi­ness became no one's business, for serious criticism arose because of some of the teach­ings which appeared in the journal, and James White came to the rescue as the editor in March, 1871. Elder James White carried th's responsibility until July, 1874, when Dr. J. H. Kellogg was made the editor in chief. In one of the editorials, which appeared regularly in each issue from the pen of Elder White, he stated that the editorial ,duties for the year previous had been carried largely by Doctor Kellogg. With the appointment of Doctor Kellogg as editor in chief, a stability was given in leadership that was much needed in that struggling period when the minds of strong leaders of this cause were engrossed with weightier matters than passing upon the details of health teaching which should appear in a health journal.

Not only was Doctor Kellogg well qualified as a physician, but he also possessed literary ability of a marked degree. We do find, how­ever, that throughout this period of thirty years, men like Elders James White, D. T. 13ourdeau, J. N. Loughborough, George I. Butler, and many others, contributed many articles to the paper and often brought a weight of practical judgment to the subjects presented, when doctors began to theorize on matters which had, as the lay leaders thought, no scientifically proved foundation. A survey of the first twelve numbers reveals the fact that out of forty-five leading articles, not in­cluding editorials or reprints, only thirteen were contributed by physicians. Thirteen years later a survey of twelve numbers of Good Health indicates that out of thirty-eight leading articles, eighteen were written by physicians, a large number by the editor him­self. The first editor, Doctor Lay, in endeavor­ing to allay the fears of the readers relative to the value of articles by nonprofessional writ­ers, expressed the editorial policies in the second issue as follows : "To those, however, who must have the magic of an M.D. to inspire confidence, we would say that all of these articles are examined professionally and endorsed, before they are laid before the reader."

It might seem that such an assurance would guarantee that the material which went into this publication would always be conservative and would give guidance to persons who were seeking to find the right way in healthful living. A careful perusal of all the articles during those thirty years would indicate, how­ever, that some of the soundest instruction, as measured by scientific knowledge today, came from the pens of the nonprofessional writers. Perhaps this was more evident because lay writers did not as frequently touch the con­troversial subjects in their articles, while the physicians were advancing into new fields in which knowledge was then incomplete. Scien­tific research has now shed much light on many of these subjects. Outside of the writ­ings of Ellen G. White, there appeared no more able exponent of broad, sound, and balanced health teaching than Elder J. N. Loughborough. Elder Loughborough will be remembered as one of those early pioneers who had written a very useful textbook on the subject of physiology. No doubt the preparation of this text enabled him to evalu­ate sanely the many reform measures which zealous, but misguided. individuals were push­ing upon the people of his day.

The word "reform," then, as now, seemed to imply debate, and though Elder James White had clearly enunciated the editorial policies in 1871, the Health Reformer continued to be the open forum for many years for the airing of conflicting opinions. • This was good for those of scientific attitude, but unfortunately it led many of its readers to get a wrong understanding, especially when they relied on the word of the physician as conclusive evi­dence of the correctness of a writer's position.

An instance of such discussion during al­most this entire period touches the question of the use of salt as a part of the dietary needs of man. General magazines of the day had much to say on this subject, and we find that Doctors Thatcher Trail and J. H. Kellogg supported statements and wrote articles call­ing the readers' attention to salt as deleterious to the health of the individual, advising people either to discard it at once or to gradually eliminate it from their dietary. Even some of the most cautious writers indicated that salt was a poison to the system. Many of the early leaders in the message took issue on this subject, and in the May, June, and July issues of the Health Reformer of 1875, Elder George I. Butler wrote three masterly ar­ticles defending the use of salt in the diet. And even though the editorial comments which accompanied these articles sought to disprove the statements made, they stand forth today as clear, forceful, and comprehensive as they must have seemed to lay readers of the jour­nal sixty-five years ago. It is to the credit of the editor of the Health Reformer, and it reveals the sportsmanship of those of opposing opinions in that day, when men said what they thought without many pleasing platitudes at­tached. We note that in introducing the sub­ject "Is the Use of Salt Wholly Injurious ?" by Elder Butler, the editor, Dr. J. H. Kellogg, who held a contrary view, made this statement :

"The author is one of our warmest friends, and with the exception of his skepticism on the salt question is a real health reformer, even according to our radical views. He thoroughly believes what he advocates, and the reader cannot fail to be inter­ested in the vigorous and ingenious style in which he handles the subject."

It is probable that the clear-cut articles by Elder Butler helped to guide many into a sane use of this needful article of man's food. After writing extensively on the subject, Elder Butler states:

"We are to admit that many hurt them­selves by using too much of it. So also they do by using too much of many useful articles. If its effect is evil, and only evil, then it should be classed with noxious articles like alcohol, opium, tobacco, tea, coffee, and stimulating spices, which, though varying in degree, yet are all useless and injurious. But we want considerable positive evidence on this point before we class salt with these."

He then added a statement which seemed to be the sound criteria by which many of those levelheaded leaders met the instances of extreme teaching which found their way into the Reformer.

"We want evidence that shall be clear even to those who cannot understand all the intricacies of medical science. Where the use of an agent is so extensive as salt, there certainly ought to be many illustrations of its pernicious character, if it be so hurtful as the Reformer teaches."

Again he says, "We know it is very easy to theorize, and fix things up very plausibly." We quote 'this discussion briefly to indicate that although the editorial policy of Doctor Lay stated that articles by lay people would be examined professionally, this perhaps only gave the weight of professional opinion to the less logical editorial discussion which succeeded each of Elder Butler's articles. It would seem from a study of the journal that this tendency to discuss subjects of contro­versial nature was introduced in connection with a policy established the second year of the journal, when an independent department, under the direction of Dr. Thatcher Trail, not a member of the denomination, was given a proniinent place in the journal. Elder James White later stated, as readers began seriously to question the scientific accuracy of some of Doctor Trail's teaching, that the editors of the Refornier were not responsible for the material in his department of five pages.

The following year we find that Doctor Trail had been accorded a front-page place in the journal, and that nine pages were utilized by him. This coveted place was held for only nine numbers, when again his department was relegated to the sixth page of the journal. In an editorial in 1872 James White defended Doctor Trail, while at the same time not ap­proving all that he had written in the journal. He chided the editorials supporting the doc­tor, stating that the great fault had been that while Doctor Trail's department was inde­pendent, and he was permitted to write what he wished, yet the writer of the editorials was at fault because he had supported him in his extreme positions on certain subjects, without at the same time practicing these reforms at his own table. None of these prob­lems of extreme teaching would have arisen had the editorial policy enunciated by Elder James White as early as April, 1871, been followed in practice. In this early editorial, he wrote as follows:

"We shall avoid extremes, and come as near those who need reforming in their habits of life as pos­sible, and yet be true to the principles of health reform. If we err at all, we prefer that it shall be on the side nearest the people, rather than on that farthest from them. Every reform, however impor­tant to the well-being of the race, seems fated to suffer more or less from extremists ; and probably none has suffered more from this cause than the health reform."

He also stated, in an article, dated March, 1871, "As a people, Seventh-day Adventists have suffered from extreme positions taken by some of their number who have manifested more zeal than knowledge." Again he wrote, in enunciating the Reformer's editorial policy:

"It will not be satisfied with fighting it out with a few friends in defense of positions which are regarded by all the rest of the world as extremely absurd. It will rather stand in independent and bold defense of the broad principles of hygiene, and gather as many as possible upon this glorious plat­form."

It was no doubt through the efforts of Dr. J. H. Kellogg in consultation with the editor, Elder James White, that Doctor Trail's de­partment was finally discontinued with the December number of 1873. While Doctor Trail had previously, in his extensive pub­lished works, presented his subjects in exposi­tion form, he seemed to use more and more the argumentative style of presentation in the columns of the Reformer, and of ten chose subjects most controversial in nature. The use of pure sugar was one subject on which he took an extreme view. A controversy ap­peared in the columns of the journal between Doctor Trail and Doctor Kellogg on this point. This no doubt hastened the decision of the editor, Elder James White, to eliminate this troublesome department at the end of the current year.

Upon the death of Doctor Trail in 1877, the Health Reformer devoted a column in memory of him and his contributions in the field of health teaching. With the elimination of this department from the journal we find less criticism of the rank and file of the medical profession. However, it would seem that in their excessive use of drugs, the medi­cal fraternity of the day did lay themselves open to serious criticism. In one of the early articles which appeared from the pen of Doc­tor Kellogg, in the September issue of 1873, entitled "A 'Regular' Kill," we find this in­dictment against the practicing physician:

"Every newspaper contains from one to a dozen or more accounts of murders, suicides, deaths by railroad accidents, boiler explosions, etc., etc. The number of deaths thus recorded is appalling; but notwithstanding the enormous total which a yearly summary would present, all of the causes of the deaths mentioned are insignificant in importance when compared with the pillbox and medicine chest of the 'regular' medical profession."

"Although 'killed by a physician' might be truth­fully inscribed on fully five sixths of the tombstones of our cemeteries, it is quite rarely that the doctors get proper credit for their deeds."

The article then records the story which appeared in the Chicago Times, in which a doctor of that city, in endeavoring to cure a patient of rheumatism, had, during a period of eleven days, used excessive amounts of various poisonous drugs and pronounced the patient cured. As a result of hypodermic injections of morphine and belladonna to stupefy the nervous system, the patient apparently went to sleep and then suddenly ceased to breathe.

It must be recognized that the foregoing indictment expresses a personal view and per­haps a somewhat general attitude, but it is made without documentary proof and hardly represents true statistical facts. It is apparent, however, that much of this general discussion relative to the wrong practices of the rank and file of physicians by lay people, and also by leading physicians and instructors in leading medical schools, brought about changes which found reflection in the content of our own health journal. By the year 1879 it was thought best to change the title of the maga­zine from the Health Reformer to Good Health, A Journal of Hygiene. In support of this change, the editor makes the following explanation in the last number of the journal of 1878.

'This number of the Health Reformer is the last which will appear under the old name. Hereafter the journal will be known as Good Health. Con­cerning the change, we offer this word of explana­tion: for the consolation of the thousands of old friends who have given the Reformer a hearty wel­come once a month for the last twelve years, we wish to say emphatically, the change does not sig­nify that the old journal has died, and that a new one is to spring up from its ashes. No, indeed. The Health Reformer is as fully alive as ever to the interests of the people in the direction of health. It has not died, and will not. Its vitality was never at a higher tide, and its constitution was never stronger. The proposed change is one of name only, not of identity. The journal goes right along as it has done heretofore, only under a different name.

"Why the change? Why not keep the old name? ask a half dozen correspondents to whom the old associations are dear. We answer, The age is a progressive one. The people, as well as the 'times,' are continually changing. What is good, wise, politic, and unobjectionable one day, is in all par­ticulars the opposite the next. When the journal was first started, 'reform' was the watchword of progress. Today, through its connection with po­litical intrigues, communism, and sundry other kindred movements, the word has been trampled in the dust and smirched with infamy and shame. Re­form no longer means to the masses, progress, purity, advancement, exchange of error for truth; it means revolution, controversy, discord, the breaking up of pleasant associations, radicalism. To many it has become an opprobrious and obnoxious word. Peo­ple are afraid of reforms. They are willing to be improved, to be educated, to have errors pointed out and new truths brought to their notice; but to be reformed, they are not so desirous.

"In view of these facts, and all observing minds will recognize them as such, it is evidently quite impolitic to present upon the very face and front of the journal a term so well calculated to preju­dice the mind of the new investigator and to turn him away before he has made a careful examination, and so illy calculated to attract attention and en­courage investigation.

"The character of the journal is to be the same. It has the same objects, and will continue to pursue the same methods in attaining the same, hoping to do so with ever-increasing success. With these explanations we trust our readers will prepare themselves to give to the journal in its new dress next month a hearty New Year's greeting, and join hands with us in one more year's earnest endeavor to alleviate the pains of suffering humanity, and elevate some portions of the human race upon a higher mental, moral, and physical plane."

Until the present time this journal, which has been published independent of the denom­ination since the first decade of this century, continues to be known as Good Health, and during all these years it has consistently main­tained an editorial policy of bringing to the attention of the readers health teaching which has been a strong factor in molding the at­titudes of people in the values of a vegetarian dietary.

From a historical angle it is important to note that another journal, known as the Pacific Health Journal and Temperance Ad­vocate, began to be published by this denomi­nation in the year 1885. This journal from the beginning was attractive and interesting and balanced in health teaching. It, too, however, had problems in the securing of stable editorial leadership, and history repeated itself, for we find that this journal also had an era in which it was managed by a committee, without the editor's being named in its pages. It was finally stabilized by the appointment of Dr. G. H. Heald as the editor in chief in the year 1899. From this time on Doctor Heald gave to the Pacific Health Journal the careful editorial scrutiny which is needed in the suc­cess of any journalistic enterprise. In 1904, when the journal was transferred to Washing­ton for publication, and the name was changed to Life and Health, Doctor Heald continued to give the same careful attention to the newly named journal which he had accorded to its predecessor. This same untiring, unremitting interest never wavered until ill-health inca­pacitated him a few years ago.

Today, another journal, Health, published by the Pacific Press, occupies an important place in this country along with Life and Health. As we view the world field and take cognizance of the high quality and sound scientific character of the large number of health journals which are now being published under denominational supervision, and com­pare the present volume of literature with the small, struggling beginning of those first thirty years, we cannot help but exclaim, "What hath God wrought ?" In this endeavor, frail, erring human beings have had to learn through coun­sel and experience how to bring each task assigned nearer to perfection. There is much available evidence to show that our health publications have proved through the years to be invaluable in teaching the message of prac­tical healthful living, and have been factors in extending a knowledge of the gospel of salvation in many quarters where other pub­lications or efforts could not have gained an entrance. These reliable high-class health journals have done much to create a favorable attitude toward our medical institutions, and toward the interests of our cause in general.

General References

Health Reformer, Volumes II to XIV, 5866-5878. Good Health, Volumes XV to XXXI, 1879-1897. Pacific Health Journal, Volumes I to XIX, 1887-1904.

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H. M. W., M.D. & K. L. J., R.N.

April 1940

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