An apology from me to you

By Penny Caldwell »Penny Caldwell

June 2nd, 2009


My husband, my daughters, and many of our most loyal readers—you all wondered the same thing: Which editor was asleep at the switch when we published the story in Cottage Life’s June issue about how to bury a dead body? Well, that would be me. When we wrote the story, we didn’t know that a community would be mourning the loss of a beautiful little girl, or that police would be scouring southwestern Ontario for her body. The piece was meant to be an over-the-top bit of dark humour that nobody would take seriously, along the lines of the advice about what to do if you’re abducted by aliens, which appeared in the same issue. In hindsight, however, I realize it was a mistake for us to publish the story, and I apologize to readers who were offended to find it in their favourite magazine. If you have a comment, you can post it below.


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Jul. 21, 2009

6:55 pm

My summer edition of CL arrived today & it was interesting to read the letters on this.As I live in CA now & don't always check the CBC as often as I should,I was unaware of the tragedy concerning little Victoria.Unfortunately this sort of thing happens in the states much too often; consequently I am still conflicted.My first reaction was shock- has Canada joined the US in glorifying violence?(I certainly hope not!)then I thought perhaps I ought to lighten up & see the "gallows" humour & let it go at that.On reflection I do appreciate your apology & I hope this was strictly a one off.


Jun. 28, 2009

2:45 pm

I am 14 years old and read the article in cottage life. I found it absolutely appalling. Telling the general public how to bury a dead human body is absolutely horrible. The murderers and sick nutbars on this planet don't need any more ideas on how to dispose of their victims. I also strongly dislike the article that encourages teens to use ecstasy. Drugs are a huge problem in the world,and we don't need to support them by encouraging their use in a cottage magazine. I thought cottage life was a family magazine.

Peter Boyce

Jun. 20, 2009

4:49 pm

I agree with the "naysayers" This is a family magazine that sits on our table at the cottage for the whole family to read. Do I want my grandkids to read about stealing a neighbour's marijuana plant ( a previous issue by David Zimmer who in my opinion is not funny)or about how to hide a dead body? I don't think so. The magazine has plenty of great content but the addition of "modern or shock" culture is not needed. Keep it simple and concentrate on good things not the trashy things we can read in a tabloid if so desired


Jun. 11, 2009

5:19 pm

This is the very first time I've ever written to an editor complaining about an article, but felt it very necessary in this case. Maybe it was Tory Stafford or maybe the lingering effects of the Paul Bernardo murders, but I'm still upset with this. Thanks for the apology Penny and I believe it very sincere and heart felt. I hope that it also goes in the next edition. I'm not cancelling my subscription, but still shocked by some of the comments above, indicating they laughed at it. I knew you were trying to portray a 'dark' approach with this article, and I liked the other items, but this went too far. Even if there had not been a Tory Stafford murder. I'm not a cottager, but live in Northern Ontario and don't understand how this fits into a cottage magazine. I know that an overturned tree will respond with pruning, as suggested in the article. I have also buried a pet that way before, but you don't have to give the sickos of the world more ideas on how to dispose of a body. Hell, pack it up to to the cottage and leave it with us.


Jun. 10, 2009

9:08 pm

My husband and I subscribed to CL because it has been a welcome respite from the pathology of modern culture. One aspect of modern culture is a delight in "dark" images in film and "art". These are often introduced to viewers as a joke, with ridicule of those who take them seriously. We are sadly canceling our subscription to CL and will look elsewhere for what's important to us.


Jun. 10, 2009

8:49 pm

I logged onto CL tonight in order to cancel my subscription because of the referenced article. I was glad to see the apology by the editor, but dismayed that she apologized only because of the tragic disappearance of a girl, not because of the nature of the article itself. The central issue here is that human life is sacred. (No, I am not a bible thumper.) I literally feel bad whenever I hear on the news that someone has died. Jokes about disposing dead (murdered?) bodies are simply beyond me. I subscribe to Cottage Life because I enjoy the community of people who embrace the outdoors, neighborliness, and kindness that marked a previous generation. It would be sad to see CL descend into the wasteland of 'dark humour', which is merely a euphemism for nihilism.

Trailer Trish

Jun. 10, 2009

4:04 am

Wow--the anger here is completely misdirected. There are events in real life, like Tori Stafford's murder, that are terrible and disgusting. Be angry about those things. Do what you can to stop those things. Don't worry about a few paragraphs of harmless fluff. The dead body bit was like a campfire ghostly murder story: gruesome if you take it literally, harmless fun if you take it in the spirit it's meant.


Jun. 9, 2009

9:48 pm

I, like you, first saw the humour intended with the tree over the body story. It got me thinking...I've always known I wanted to be cremated when I die and would love my final resting place to be "the cottage". I was never comfortable about being scattered around... Your joke gave me the idea that in remembrance of me I would love to have a "save a tree" weekend with all my family and cottage friends. My urn could go under the tree roots and the group could spend the whole weekend getting that darn tree back up so it could live, in remembrance of me. I take comfort in the idea and know that around Kahshe Lake in Muskoka there are many trees that could be saved. Thanks for allowing my imagination to come up with a solution, Keep up the good work, Barb


Jun. 8, 2009

11:20 pm

The timing with the tragedy in Ontario was unfortunate. And I'm glad you had the sense to apologize. But still, the item was in extreme bad taste and the editors were indeed asleep at the switch. If you want to do a far fetched humorous article, fine - great. If you want to do a real tips article fine. But to mix them together - what were you thinking? What is the reader to think? My husband and I were shocked and repulsed with the advice on how to bury a body. Are you condoning murder, not to mention an accomplice aiding and abetting? And, despite what some of the comments on this blog may suggest, we DO have a life and we Do have a sense of humor. But this item crossed the line for us. Bad, bad, bad.

M. Tuer

Jun. 8, 2009

11:05 pm

Thanks for the apology. It was dark humour gone too far especially in the light of what has happened.

Jenn Jilks

Jun. 8, 2009

1:32 pm

What is really funny, and you cannot predict such a coincidence, as that people do bury loved ones. I was listening to a lawyer talk to someone who had buried a parent on the property. The property was bought by another family and legally they had to remove the illegally buried loved one.

Jun. 7, 2009

12:48 pm

Hello Penny and Crew Kudos to you for the good leadership shown by the official apology. I too thought it was a bit "over the top" and out of character for the magazine. However, I know the importance of taking responsibility for something that may have been intended for good but turned out in bad timing or taste. To take responsibility for it and apologize to those to whom it became hurtful, that is the sign of a good leader. Good job. ! Continue on with the great job you are doing as I LOVE the magazine and find no better read.!!

Claude L.

Jun. 5, 2009

8:22 am

Apology accepted and offence was taken. Were you asleep at the switch? Ya. Big time. What is light and airy and funny about creative ways to bury a body within the context of the past 2 months in southern Ontario? I suppose in any other context...maybe...but I still would not have headlined it on the front of the magazine. Tell you what I did: I just tossed this edition aside and look forward to something better next month. In general, I actually really enjoy the magazine. Onward McDuff as they say. Oh, and big thumbs down to the bloggers in this thread who felt it necessary to 'dis' those of us 'without a life' who are 'politically correct' (whatever that means) and 'lost in space' and 'can't read' (that was funny Mr. Bearse). Ha ha.

Cottager Kate

Jun. 5, 2009

7:12 am

I live 20 minutes from where Tori vanished and not once did I make a connection to the tragedy in Woodstock when I read the article. I found that article refreshing with typical "cottage humour", not an attempt to be tasteless. Please don't write to be too politically correct or "safe", that would not be as interesting.

Jun. 4, 2009

8:57 pm

Hey Penny, No offense was taken, as I can be sure that non was intended. Perhaps too many people are looking for fault wherever they can find it. Cottage Life has always presented itself with dignity, and I feel well represented as a cottager, who enjoys reading your magazine.


Jun. 4, 2009

10:28 am

I guess 'John' is another one that can't read.... get a life .... a real one!

Jun. 3, 2009

9:03 pm

When I first received my copy, I was shocked and appalled. I would give it some time (perhaps I was over reacting) before I wrote in to the editor to have my subscription canceled. It has been over a week, and my opinion had not changed. So today I logged on and noticed your apology and surprised to see so many letters of support for the article. Maybe that would change if you did include some molestation prior and make the body a child's one. Even without that, murder is a hideous crime in any of its forms, and our society has let their level of what is acceptable sink too low. I agree with Kevin's comments about kids going out and trying ecstasy - Zim's articles are not improving our society either. Hopefully you a start cleaning up your act and think twice about the messages you are delivering in humor or otherwise. Leave the morally devoid to hollywood.


Jun. 3, 2009

7:41 pm

I took no offense at all. I thought your article was great! One thing (out of many) that I like about Cottage Life Magazine is the way you all think outside the box. Please don't let this change your style.


Jun. 3, 2009

7:03 pm

Penny and staff.. No need to worry, the article was taken in the manner and humour that it was intended. We always injoy your article and the magazine. Im sure everyone accepts your apology. Sometimes humour is just what this world needs. Mark smuck

Jun. 3, 2009

6:19 pm

Thanks for the apology. I did , in fact, find the comments insensitive, for the reason you mentioned. I'm sure that it was unintentional, but nice to know you "fessed up".

Anne E.

Jun. 3, 2009

5:29 pm

Don't sweat the small stuff Penny! Job well done on the magazine. (As always) Lots happens in our world, bad and good so we need to "lighten up". Humour is good for the soul and we all fully know that had you have known the circumstances things would've been different. Thanks for making us laugh!

Jun. 3, 2009

4:23 pm

Penny, you have nothing to apologize for. Anyone who did not understand that to be "tongue in cheek" is "lost in space". I am tired of the politically correct world and think that life needs to be interesting rather than perfect. Don't know if that is the best way to hide a body but never really needed to know, yet. Wonder if it would have worked with the dead Moose that was also a story in an issue a while back. Randy

Tim Sayles

Jun. 3, 2009

3:43 pm

Ouch, Penny ... I feel your pain, sister! But it looks like most of your readers understood that it was just an accident of timing and are not holding it against you.

Jun. 3, 2009

3:16 pm

First of all, would the last person please read what everyone else here has written about deadlines? Penny and co. likely published this magazine before this tragedy happened... I personally thought that the article was quite humorous, and obviously satirical. Anyone who honestly believes that it was a worthwhile idea is taking things a little bit too seriously. I do have to agree the ecstasy comment went a little too far though, though I do realize Zimmer is joker...

Jun. 3, 2009

4:12 pm

Although I am not used to reading "dark humour" I actually enjoyed reading this entire article. I like the fact that it was serious in spots and sarcastic in other areas. I think it's too bad that society expects people to justify everything that is written. Same with Zimmer's article, it's funny to read because it's a big joke!!!

Jun. 3, 2009

2:58 pm

Penny, I was very, so very disappointed when I saw the article. You have to understand that when your mistake will potentially shut down your buissness as that was an awful mistake. Don't feel too bad just bad will do. Please think about that girl before publishing a non-sense article and a ex-popular magazine. That's all.

Jun. 3, 2009

11:42 am

Well, thank you for saying something - I must admit that I was shocked and sad, given that we opened it up to read with our kids, as the school year comes to an end, this issue is always a favourite. I had to close the magazine, as there was little 'delight' in figuring out how to bury a body. I do understand your deadlines and so yes, we have all agreed to cut some slack. And yes we run and jump and laugh at our cottage but it was more when my 8 year old asks if the police know this technique and could it help find the missing girl.....i then had to say to him that CL was just joking, but that its not normally a joke. It's not always about staying out of the dark and just go and enjoy life - this we wish for the world, and in our home we do but for those who are not as fortunate to do so it comes down to respect and having a little helps all. Again, thanks for saying something, means a lot.

Penny Caldwell

Summer Cottager

Jun. 3, 2009

11:06 am

Thanks for all your comments everyone—I appreciate the feedback!


Jun. 3, 2009

10:49 am

Some people need to realize the deadlines with which you work do not allow adherance to any possible emotion that may be evoked due to very recent current events. Yes the events referred to that opened wounds hit home with everyone whether they were close to the situation or not but if you are offended by the humour in this issue to the point of complaining then I sggest you get out the stright jacket because this world will eventually require you to use it. Relax and enjoy life - it is precious and we should seriously punish those that take it away from anyone and especially an innocent young child!


Jun. 3, 2009

9:22 am

i thought it was funny...keep up the good work

Jun. 3, 2009

8:52 am

I was a bit set back when I read it. Sure it was meant to be tongue in cheek humour, but I could see it more in a good thriller novel, not a cottaging magazine??? I think what up-set me more was the bit in "Don't Ask Zimmer" telling kids to build a fort in the bush and go experiment with ecstasy. My kids read this magazine! Again, NOT something I would have expected from C.L. at all!


Jun. 3, 2009

8:33 am

Penny Unfortunatley you were caught up in the web we weaved ourselves here in Canada and the rest of the free world and that is being politicaly correct. At times which is most of the time we fear to say anything because it could be misinterpreted so we remain silent and so we loose our personal as well as cultural idenity. Your Humour was a delight, stuff cottage life is made of fun ,humour , off the cuff relaxation and good memories. No need to fret do not stop and enjoy your summer.


Jun. 3, 2009

9:17 am

Penny, no need to apology. People need to get past that level of consciousness and realize that not everything relates to current news. I've been involved in law enforcement for over 20 years and if I thought like that everything would have a nose dive meaning. If you look for darkness, you will find it! get over it and start enjoying life.


Jun. 3, 2009

8:07 am

Penny, No apology required! I took it exactly for what it was, a little bit of humour!!! Have we really forgotten how to laugh? I'm sure the people that are "offended" are the same people putting white couches in their cottages and telling me I can't sit on them!!!! Keep up the GREAT work.

Jun. 3, 2009

9:00 am

Hello, I too thought taht it was in "bad taste", and still do. I read your reasoning and apology, but it was a jest gone too far. Jean

William Meldrum

Jun. 3, 2009

7:50 am

Penny ... Anyone that was 'offended' to your obviously in jest article, should pause and reflect on their apparent need to get a life. As unfortunate as the real life story was, it is hardly your fault. So please, no apology necessary. Love your magazine, Bill


Jun. 3, 2009

7:21 am

Don't sweat the dead body article Penny. Keep up the great work!

Jun. 3, 2009

7:07 am

Penny, If you were to let all the possibilities of the events of tomorrow rule your content, I would not buy your magazine. Why ? It would be blank papers with advertising !

The Sea Lady

Jun. 3, 2009

6:07 am

Penny: Your article was funny! We don't laugh enough! Especially in a day and age where something like the Tori Stafford situation could even happen. You are not to blame and I never made the connection even when our Lake (Lake Belwood -- Ontario's best-kept secret -- minutes from Fergus, Ontario) was one of the areas searched and our Cottagers' Association asked us all to be on the lookout when walking in the the bush around our cottages. A joke is still a joke, a laugh still a laugh. As a people, Canadians have always been a bit staid -- but over the past few years with political correctness at the fore, we are taking ourselves 'way too seriously. We need to lighten up and I love your sense of humour. Forgive yourself; most of us have!

Patricia White

Jun. 3, 2009

5:27 am

Penny, I understand how you could be feeling bad about adding it into your publication, but people need to be able to see the humour it was meant to produce and lighten up... in all aspects of our lives. We are becoming way too uptight. There is certainly no room for that kind of thinking especially at the cottage. Keep up the good work! Patricia

Jun. 3, 2009

4:17 am

Penny, I enjoyed the June issue and the articles containing your "dark" humour were taken in jest and I certainly did smile when I read them. Actually it made me read them twice just to make sure I was reading it properly. Cottage humour. Sometimes people need to have just that, "cottage humour" - where we get to leave the insanity behind, get back to the basics and not link our "weekend warrior" life back to reality. Thanks for the smile and for the reminder that only cottagers can relate to "Cottage Life"

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