March 26, 2002
This article about The Compleat Mother magazine was published on March 3, 2002.
Minot Daily News Sun, March 3, 2002
Parents share experience
Minot woman publishes 'Compleat Mother'
for parents around the world
By: Andrea Johnson
Editorial Staff Writer
- Few international businesses are as far-reaching as the one Jody McLaughlin runs out of her Minot home.
Four times a year - in January, April, July and October - about 7,000 or 8,000 issues of "The Compleat Mother" are printed at the Greater Northwest Publishing Inc. in Minot and mailed to subscribers in 14 countries around the world. The magazine is devoted to homebirth, breastfeeding and parenting.
"All of the United States and European magazines are mailed out of Minot," McLaughlin said proudly.
Including the United States, subscribers reside in Australia, New Zealand, Israel, Japan, Argentina, Brazil, Venezuela, and the Czech Republic. McLaughlin estimated that about $36,000 annually comes into the state from the American edition of the magazine. Printing, bulk mailing, shipping and office costs are also funneled back into Minot and the larger area by a magazine that many don't realize exists.
The Compleat Mother was created 17 years ago in Clifford, Ontario, by
McLaughlin, who had long been interested and involved in the issues covered by the magazine, took over the American edition of the magazine in 1989. "I had been reading the magazine for about five years," McLaughlin said. "I had written a couple of articles and Catherine knew I was a really good networker."
Young found that it was cheaper to mail the magazine to American subscribers from Minot than from Canada, McLaughlin said. She agreed to take over the printing and mailing of the magazine to ensure that it would continue here.
Young died in September 2001 of cancer. The Canadian edition of the magazine is now run by her daughter, Rebecca Young.
Rebecca Young said McLaughlin has been a big part of the success of the magazine.
"She has opened the states up to the magazine in a way that we couldn't," said Young, 23, who lives in Hamilton, Ontario. "We have way more subscribers in the states now."
The magazine is comprised with submissions from subscribers. Men and women write of their experiences with childbirth, breastfeeding, parenting and similar topics. Articles are submitted gratis, McLaughlin said, which means the magazine doesn't receive many articles from freelance writers who contribute to other such magazines.
"Mostly we get fledgling writers," McLaughlin said.
However, all of the contributors are people who have real-life experience with the subjects they write about, who don't censor their opinions. McLaughlin said subscribers recognize that the Compleat Mother is written by people who are "experts, not professionals," and value the publication for its difference from more mainstream parenting magazines.
Each issue features a photo of a woman breastfeeding a child on the cover. Many of the photos have been women and children from the Minot area, McLaughlin said. A photo of Minot resident Mona Goheen's baby son breastfeeding was featured two years ago.
Goheen, who is also an avid reader of the magazine, said The Compleat Mother provided invaluable information when she was planning a home water birth in 2000 and when she was breast feeding her son.
"It's very helpful," said Goheen, who also called McLaughlin equally helpful and "a walking library."
Goheen said she thinks it's great that a magazine with an international readership is published in Minot. McLaughlin said some of the magazine's cover shots are also submitted by readers, or are artistic representations of breastfeeding.
Though some area women, like Goheen, are avid readers, most of the magazine's American subscribers live out of state. The majority of them live in Minnesota, Michigan, New York, California and Washington. There is also an online edition of the magazine, which contains copies of articles and letters from some of the magazine's back issues. Greg Cryns, who lives Illinois, is the Webmaster for the online edition of the magazine. The magazine can be found at (www.compleatmother.com)
McLaughlin said she doesn't think many people know of the existence of the magazine, even though it has been printed in Minot for 13 years. Circulation has grown mainly through word of mouth. It is passed out by subscribers to members of a La Leche League group or at hospitals, or shared between sisters, friends and aunts.
"We have 12-year-olds who read the magazine," said McLaughlin.
A police chaplain in Detroit found the magazine in a local health food store and was so excited that he bought a lifetime subscription so he could share the magazine with others, said McLaughlin. Another subscriber, who bought multiple back issues of the magazine, was an 80-year-old health food store owner in California.
"The library at (the University of North Dakota) has the largest collection
in the U.S.," said McLaughlin. "We also have people who want every
available back issue."
Young said she tries to pick a variety of submissions for each issue so there is at least one article every reader will be interested in.
"We try and be respectful of the readers' diversity," Young said.
Young said an issue may contain information about homebirths, breastfeeding and circumcision, as well as remedies for medical problems so there is information of interest to young mothers and fathers as well as middle-aged grandmothers.
"It's a community," said Young. "There are people who subscribed to the Compleat Mother 17 years ago who still subscribe. It's a small community, but it's a really powerful one ... That's why I'm so attached to (the magazine) ... These are a community of people who knew my mother really well."
Her mother had already completed much of the fall issue and was worried about whether the magazine would be completed in the week before her death, Young said. She assured her mother that she would continue her work.
"The magazine had to go to the printer four days after she died," Young said.
Working on the magazine has been therapeutic for her and has helped her maintain a connection with her mother, Young said. While she initially thought she would only be able to complete a few issues after her mother died, now she thinks she will keep going with it until someone can be found who is interested in running it on a permanent basis.
It would be best for McLaughlin if someone can be found who can make a long-term commitment to carry on the magazine, Young said.
Young said she's grateful to McLaughlin for being so supportive and helpful after the death of her mother. Without McLaughlin's help and the knowledge she shared with Young, it would have been much more difficult to continue the magazine, she said.
"The first two months were really difficult," she said. "I didn't know where my mom kept a lot of things. Her filing system was really creative, to say the least. I didn't know who her advertisers were."
Young said she wasn't sure how her mother billed her Canadian advertisers, so she had to develop her own system. Throughout it all, McLaughlin's assistance was invaluable.
"It's been a joy to continue the work," Young said. "I'm very proud of
Jody. She took a big risk ..."
The U.S./Canadian partnership is made easier with the advent of e-mail and the Internet. Young is of a generation that is at ease with computers. Catherine Young and McLaughlin took to it with less ease.
"Our children drag us kicking and screaming into the 21st century," McLaughlin said.
Her daughter, Riva, persuaded McLaughlin to upgrade her equipment a few years ago. Both Riva, 28, and her sister, Alyson, 25, helped their mother with the mailing when they lived at home. Young said she also persuaded her mother to upgrade her equipment a while before her death, but her mother never became completely comfortable with computers.
Still, before the advent of e-mail, Catherine Young wrote to McLaughlin four times a year with the layouts for the American edition of the magazine. After they got e-mail, they were trading messages nearly every day, Rebecca Young said. Young does the entire layout on her computer. She selects the pieces that will appear in each quarterly edition and paginates the pages using Pagemaker software. Her printer in Ontario then sends the layout to McLaughlin by Fedex.
Young said she handles the advertisers for the Canadian edition, while McLaughlin handles the advertising for the American edition. It is a business that McLaughlin still finds rewarding after so many years.
"I love what I'm doing," McLaughlin said. "I love the flexibility."
She also loves knowing that the magazine she has invested so much time and effort in is making a real difference for women and children all over the world.
"This magazine changes lives," said McLaughlin.
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