The publisher of a local magazine about parenting says she could be put out of business if the state Division of Family Services continues to publish its own similar magazine with government funds.
"It's unnecessary duplication of services, and it's counter to what I thought was an official policy for government not to compete with small business development," said Patty Kimball, publisher of Parent Express.She also questions whether the state's "Utah Parenting" magazine is a public relations tool timed to possibly help the re-election campaign of Gov. Norm Bangerter - who wrote a letter about parenting for its inside cover and held a press conference to announce its distribution during June, which he declared "Positive Parenting Month."
State Family Services Director Jean Nielsen said she doesn't feel the state's magazine competes with Kimball's because it does not sell advertising and is offered free. She also adamantly denies that timing of the magazine had anything to do with Bangerter's campaign.
"We just wanted to do something positive about parenting," Nielsen said. "We see the crisis of dysfunctional families and wanted to do something preventative. If there were 20 parenting magazines out there, we would still want to do this. You can't get too much information about parenting."
Nielsen said the state budgeted $15,000 for its magazine - with most coming from a federal grant - but likely overran that budget when it printed 100,000 copies instead of the originally planned 50,000. She said she doubts - but cannot promise - that the state will ever publish the magazine again because it was essentially made possible by a one-time grant.
Kimball still worries. "I think this is sort of a trial balloon for them. Maybe they will publish it on an annual basis if it is successful."
Kimball's magazine is also distributed free in stores, schools and day-care centers - or for $15 a year by mail - but makes money by selling advertising. She worries that the state could continue its magazine in the future "and selling ads would be a natural way to finance it."
Although the state did not sell advertising for the current issue, it did publish the logos of KSL, Smith's Food King and Stepping Stones Inc. in exchange for help with photos, advertising or distribution.
"That upsets me a little, too," Kimball said. "If I want to distribute Parent Express in Smith's Food King, I am put on a waiting list. Then I have to pay $5 for a bottom newspaper rack." Nielsen said Smith's distributes the state magazine in its stores in exchange for having its logo on the magazine.
Kimball said she feels the state may have also spent too much on its magazine - using a glossy-page magazine format instead of the less-expensive newsprint that she uses. "If tax protesters got hold of information like that, it could be damaging."
Kimball said she has complained to various officials at state Social Services and the Family Services Board. "They are cordial. But they all tell me they don't think they are competing with me." She said none will promise they won't publish similar magazines in the future.
Nielsen said, "Honestly, we did not intend to compete with Patty. I personally did not even know that she had her magazine."
But Nielsen added that her office has received numerous calls from people who like the state magazine and have asked for extra copies for church and other groups. "Parents need all the information they can get. I'm not sure whether two, five or 15 magazines is enough."