Is there a disconnect between DAN’s Mission/Vision Statements and the content of Alert Diver magazine?

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Recent DAN Alert Diver CoverThe new quarterly Alert Diver, published by Stephen Frink and company, unarguably is a handsome magazine that makes its prior incarnation appear a bit of an ugly stepsister. Then again, it now appears to have a lot more money to play with. But, is it straying from DAN’s stated raison d’être?

The DAN Mission/Vision Statements can be read in full here, but I’ll highlight the most relevant content below (bold script mine): [View the issue online here, or perhaps first go here and choose the digital edition in upper right corner -- DSE, webmaster]

- “About DAN: Divers Alert Network (DAN) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit medical and research organization dedicated to the safety and health of recreational scuba divers and associated with Duke University Medical Center (DUMC).”

- “Founded in 1980, DAN has served as a lifeline for the scuba industry by operating diving’s only 24-hour emergency hotline, a lifesaving service for injured divers. Additionally, DAN operates a diving medical information line, conducts vital diving medical research, and develops and provides a number of educational programs for everyone from beginning divers to medical professionals.”

- “DAN’s Mission Statement: DAN helps divers in need with medical emergency assistance and promotes diving safety through research, education, products and services.”

- “DAN’s Vision Statement: Striving to make every dive, accident- and injury-free.”

In the above material I was unable to find any description of DAN’s/Diver Alert magazine’s role in advancing u/w photographic skills, travel location reviews, marine conservation, dive gear and the like. Yet, the current Spring 2010 edition, while admittedly including a number of diving safety and medicine pieces, is filled with such off-topic articles, several of them Feature pieces. For example:

Photography (the most egregious examples):

Pushing the Envelope (Three Advanced Photo Techniques Taught by Pros Who Perfected Them), pp 68-75

Imaging, pp 76-87

Travel:

Anacapa Island, California, pp 24-25

Alger Underwater Preserve, pp 26-27

Cayman Blue, pp 52-59

The Essentials of the Maldives, pp 60-67

Conservation:

Dive Slate, pp 12-14

Water Planet, pp 88-89

Gear:

Backplate Buoyancy Systems, pp 34-36

Now, I’m not saying that such pieces don’t make for an interesting, entertaining, flashy, and rather expensive publication, or that some folks don’t much enjoy it.

The issue is, “Are such articles consistent with the Mission and Vision Statements of DAN and a proper use of members’ dues?” “Are they the most appropriate use of limited DAN resources given how the organization represents itself to its members and the public?” “Does their primary purpose seem to be the advancement of medical services and research related ‘…to the safety and health of the recreational scuba diver’?”

Just askin’

DocVikingo

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71 comments for “Is there a disconnect between DAN’s Mission/Vision Statements and the content of Alert Diver magazine?

  1. Lee Selisky
    October 20, 2010 at 8:19 pm

    I attend most diving shows throughout the year. DEMA in Las Vegas, ADC in New Orleans, the new Upper Midwest and Adventure Travel show, which I am helping promote, in Minneapolis, BTS in New York. I have never hid from anyone. If you have questions, other DAN Board members are available throughout the country.

    Please visit http://www.diversalertnetwork.org/img/DANProgressReportOct2010.pdf
    for our 2009-2010 progress report. This may give you a better understanding of what is occurring within the organization.

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  2. Lee Selisky
    October 20, 2010 at 8:22 pm

    I will be available Wednesday thru Friday at either the DAN booth or the Historical Diving Society’s booth

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  3. charles
    October 21, 2010 at 1:23 am

    Hi Carolyn

    As a CPA and DAN member can you help us understand the 990 forms for DAN? It appears that ad revenues were $244k in 2007 and $170k in 2008 and $73k in 2009. And the DAN membership almost doubled from 150k in 2008 to 240k in 2009 but the revenues from membership stayed about the same even with the increase in membership dues. How is that possible?

    Also as a former executive on a nonprofit would you comment on the ethics of moving board members into paid positions of the organization?

    Maybe Lee can answer these questions for us at DEMA? I am happy that he is willing to meet face to face and discuss these important issues.

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  4. Carolyn
    October 22, 2010 at 2:42 am

    Hi Charles,

    I spent some time today looking through the 990′s & a recent Alert Diver. I noted that DAN, Inc, the nonprofit, wholly owns three for-profit subsidiaries (listed on page 28 of the 990, year 2009). One of these for-profit C-Corporations, “Dan Holdings”, is the entity that publishes Alert Diver. The revenue & expenses within these wholly owned subsidiaries are not included in the 990 — so it is not clear from the 990 what the magazine ad revenue & costs might be. Maybe a good question for a board member!

    I see that membership revenue didn’t change much, but I don’t see where the number of members are listed.

    As for former board members becoming paid employees, I think it depends on the facts and circumstances. The question the board has to be able to answer is whether it is truly the best way to fulfill the mission of the organization and serve its members, rather than the serve the interests of the individuals involved. Sometimes it may be a good move for the organization — but the board has to go about it in a transparent and objective way.

    When I was executive director of a nonprofit, one board member was interested in applying for a paid position (reporting to me). It was tricky politically, as I had to decide whether to hire or not hire someone who, at the moment, was one of my bosses (since I reported to the board!). The board agreed that he had to go through the normal application process, and be interviewed and considered objectively along with other candidates. I ultimately hired another applicant who I felt could better serve in that particular position. The board member/applicant stayed on the board, and we all worked through it just fine. But it is potentially a very tricky situation. It requires a high level of integrity on the part of board members, transparency about the process, and honest discussions about what is in the best interest of the organization.

    I don’t know the DAN board members nor the full history of changes in board and staff, so I can’t comment on their particular choices. But I think it’s fair to ask board members about their process for making these kinds of decisions.

    Carolyn

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  5. charlie
    October 25, 2010 at 11:42 am

    Hi Carolyn

    The number of DAN members is listed on line 4a on page 2.

    DAN Holdings appears to be a new forprofit entity. Why does DAN a nonprofit need 3 different forprofit organizations? Does this help with transparency or promote a type of financial shell game?

    The President of DAN Services is a former DAN board member and also General Council and Corporate Secretary (non voting) for both DAN Holding and DAN boards. One director is on both DAN and DAN Holding boards as a voting member. Does DAN Services and AGE also have boards if so who is on them? The President of DAN is a nonvoting member of the DAN board and his wife is a long time DAN employee currently serving as VP of DAN Services. Didn’t the DAN board force the former president of DAN out partially because his son was CFO and President of DAN Services? This new arrangement seems pretty incestuous to me but I am sure it is perfectly legal and approved by the board. However I along with many DAN members could question the ethics of these arrangements.

    Not sure if I will make it to DEMA in Nov, but I hope that some DAN members lookup Lee Selisky and ask him to hire a third party independent ethics consultant to evaluate the actions of the DAN board and post a complete ethics report on the DAN website for all members to see. If there is nothing to hide then lets bring this out into the daylight and see just how ethical the DAN organization really is?

    I am not a CPA, but according to the recent 990 tax forms DAN net assets increase 50% to $12million in 2009 and DAN paid the top 7 key employees about $1million total. I guess that explains the recent increase in members and membership fees. Is Steven Frink a key employees making over $100,000?

    I just wish DAN would spend some of our member fees and donations to get a third party opinion about the ethics of the organization and actions by the board. I found this online:

    “The nonprofit world has an important guiding principle and that is: no one individual is to profit from the organization. Losing sight of this principle has led to many of the scandals in the nonprofit world. In general, discussions about nonprofit ethics cover the topics of honesty, transparency, conflicts of interest, fundraising issues, and treating employees, volunteers, and clients with respect.”

    Ethics Resource Center
    2345 Crystal Drive #201
    Arlington, VA 22202

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  6. DocVikingo
    October 25, 2010 at 2:02 pm

    Thank you very much, Carlie.

    Regards,

    DocVikingo

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  7. DocVikingo
    October 26, 2010 at 5:31 pm

    DAN 2009-2010 Progress Report.
    http://www.diversalertnetwork.org/img/DANProgressReportOct2010.pdf

    A couple germane highlights:

    From the opening “Chairman’s Letter” – “But none of this has diverted us from our mission, which has remained unchanged for 30 years: An unwavering commitment to providing emergency medical assistance to divers and promoting diving safety through research, education, products and services.”

    From the opening of the “Mission” statement – “During 2009 and 2010, DAN’s primary focus has been on four mission-centric objectives:

    • Through the emergency hotline, facilitating the treatment, evacuation and referral of injured divers.

    • Furthering research in dive medicine.

    • Providing current, accurate medical information to divers.

    • Educating medical personnel at all levels to promote accurate assessment and treatment of injured divers, regardless of location.”

    Regards,

    DocVikingo

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  8. Joy S.
    November 19, 2010 at 2:00 pm

    I actually read the last few (glossy) issues, including the detailed “incident reports.” Presumably I learned more, as a result, than if I’d tossed them aside, on the assumption that they would contain only more of the same, fairly limited pontificating on the same limited range of dive medicine questions.

    Maybe you used to devour the old version of Alert Diver, but I found I was mostly reading it if I ran out of catalogs and backs of cereal boxes.

    I’m not debating whether there have been inappropriate financial conflicts of interest inside DAN. Plenty of ink has been spilled on that topic. Those worries may be legit, but so far as I can see, they do not impact a) the quality of the dive medical services nor b) to the effectiveness of the new Alert Diver format, which I enjoy.

    For better or worse, US law does allow nonprofits to have for-profit subsidiaries. I know this because a certain “nonprofit” hospital chain in PA has driven most of its competitors under, using the preferential sources of loans open to nonprofits, and is now closing hospitals in needy areas, while opening for-profit hospitals in trendy locations worldwide. Did I mention they also have a near-monopoly, locally, on health insurance, that their hospitals refuse most outside insurance, and that their insurance won’t cover service at their few remaining local competitors, even if the competitors charges are cheaper? Yes, this stinks, but it is all apparently legal.

    I’d agree that the law governing nonprofit corporations is due for revision. But unless and until that happens, it’s a fair bet that DAN is completely within its legal rights to publish as many photo articles as it likes, especially considering they first surveyed their membership to see what they’d need to see to get them to open Alert Diver and read it.

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  9. Lee Selisky
    November 21, 2010 at 6:45 pm

    Not one person approached me in regards to questions posted here at the DEMA show, so I will answer some, but not engage in debate.

    1. Frink, while a Board member, saw a financial opportunity for DAN to reduce the cost of Alert Diver magazine. He told the Board up front that he would resign as to avoid conflict of interest. He has been involved in the magazine business for over 30 years and has excellent credentials. His company is under contract and it is a flat fee agreement, we do not pay additional for any pictures, etc. as has been alleged. Under the Frink contract, DAN has saved hundreds of thousands of dollars. Also you will note that the amount of medical information has not been reduced and has been enhanced to make it more readable to the lay diver.

    2. DAN Services has always been a for-profit oranization. It services our members and sells and administers our insurance programs. This is a requirement of law, not a choice.

    3. DAN holdings was created to develop products and services to ensure that DAN Inc.(the mission side) can find the revenue needed to continue helping divers in need of medical help and advice while also providing medical education and research.

    The diving industry is shrinking and the Board of Directors was, and is, committed to LONG TERM solutions.

    I can assure all of you that every action of the various DAN organizations is made in the best interest of our membership.

    Lee

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  10. Bret Gilliam
    November 29, 2010 at 2:38 am

    Isn’t it interesting to learn that not one single person approached DAN Board member Lee Selisky at the DEMA show to discuss the supposedly hugely relevant issues that the handful of persons hiding behind aliases and with their own personal agendas have attempted to accuse the DAN Board and Steve Frink of since this blog was originally put up six months ago?

    Where were “Jay Gee” and “Brian S.” and the other muckrakers who shoveled endless accusations of impropriety, corruption, and even criminal fraud at the DAN leadership with their vicious personal attacks? And don’t forget that the entire time that they were lobbing their crap at the DAN Board and Frink that not one of them had the courage to actually sign their own name to their posts. Hell, even the author of the article “Doc Vikingo” uses an alias! (And I usually like his/her stuff. I was so naive that I didn’t even know it was an alias until I inquired with the Undercurrent publisher.)

    I’ve been a professional contributor to Undercurrent for over two decades and I use my own name when I post something and stand by my opinion… no matter how unpopular or politically incorrect it may be to some. Remember the days of heated controversy over use of modern back-mounted BCs, decompression by sport divers, diving deeper than 130 feet, nitrox, dive computers, technical diving, liveaboard vessels allowing divers to do more than three dives a day? Gasp! You would have thought the world was going to come to an end if these heretical practices were allowed. Of course, now all this stuff is mainstream.

    But one fundamental thing was different then… if you wanted to attack me for advocating these advancements and new technologies, you had to write an article or a letter to the editor and actually sign your real name. What a concept!

    Why is it considered to be acceptable today to simply hide behind a bogus email address and attack others while cowardly concealing your identity?

    I have no problem with Undercurrent’s anonymous travel reporting as it keeps operators honest and lets a reviewer see the reality of a resort or liveaboard that is not posturing for a magazine article by a known travel writer. Or by influencing a review with ad purchases. But these blog posts are different. They’re borderline libel/slander and would result in civil litigation if the numbnuts who engage in this behavior could be identified.

    I applaud Lee Selisky for standing tall and inviting anyone who wanted to discuss DAN’s conduct to come into the DAN booth at DEMA and see him up close and personal. He put his integrity on the line. He let all these bomb throwers know exactly where he would be and that he’d welcome the chance to meet them and honestly have a chat about any of the bullshit accusations they had perpetuated.

    But predictably not one of these cowards dared to show up. I think that pretty much says it all.

    So I say to them, “Crawl back into the darkness and keep pounding your keyboards (and probably your puds) spewing your cheap venom while hiding behind anonymity.”

    I like to think that I usually have a pretty good sense of humor and never failed to respect someone who disagreed with my opinion as long as they stood in the light and with a real name when they did so. That made a meaningful debate and the industry benefited from a semi-coherent intellectual exchange. Those days are now gone with the Internet and the goons who throw stones from behind a cloaked veil with no accountability are the worst kind of cowards.

    To Lee Selisky, Steve Frink, and the rest of the DAN folks who had to put up with these attacks from a bunch of morons, I feel that they are owed an apology. But I won’t hold my breath to see a retractive post from the despicable ilk who started this nonsense.

    As my mother once told me, “It’s unsportsmanlike to engage in a battle of wits with an unarmed man.”

    DAN isn’t perfect. But they perform a valuable role in the industry and deserve better than what this miserable series of posts has attempted to smear them with.

    Do I feel better getting this off my chest? No… I feel like I need to go take a shower and wash the dirt off.

    Good for you Lee for acting like a true professional. And Steve, keep up your fine work with Alert Diver. Undoubtedly there will be more bombs thrown your way. Ignore them. You’re better than they are and I respect you for it.

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  11. Michael A. Lampert
    December 14, 2010 at 6:59 pm

    The new style magazine looks great. I would like to see even more medical, dive safety, equipment (I believe that equipment goes to safety), rescue and similar articles. Even travel articles could s include realistic assessments of skill levels needed for the diving addressed in the article and applicable specific dive tips etc provided. So not only are we enticed to dive a given location, we are given information to do so more safely.

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  12. Anonymous
    December 14, 2010 at 10:17 pm

    Of the 500,000 DAN Members about 3,500 are industry professionals (scuba instructors, divemasters etc). As I said before, DEMA is an event for industry professionals only. It’s quite possible that the DAN Members who have the questions were not allowed into the show.

    DEMA considered opening the doors to the public but ultimately decided not to.

    Perhaps people are afraid to use their real name because they are afraid that Bret will berate bully them. (I am)

    I was at the show, I did not talk to Lee, but I had a nice conversation with Dan Orr. While I don’t think that it’s right for a board member to use his position for personal or financial gain. (Frink makes himself publisher / Ziefle makes himself CEO) I believe the board members are trying to do what’s right. I think they justify if because the gain DAN receives is far better than the gain the unethical board member gets. So that makes it ok. Meaning, it’s ok to be unethical when they are getting such a talented photographer with years of experience, who lets Alert Diver use his top notch photos for no extra charge. Alert Diver is no doubt THE best scuba magazine in the industry right now. DAN is better for it. I just wish it could have gone down in a different way.

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  13. Bret Gilliam
    December 14, 2010 at 10:29 pm

    To Anonymous,

    My vitriol and annoyed comments were directed at people hiding behind aliases to perpetuate and advance their own agendas while concealing their true identities. In the past I was very critical myself of DAN under the reign of Peter Bennett. And I made my commentary quite public and published under my own byline. But the Board acted courageously to oust him and went on to far better things. I wouldn’t berate you for your input… even if I disagreed. That’s a fair world. I’d just like to see the critics own up to who they really are.

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  14. Lee Selisky
    December 31, 2010 at 5:32 pm

    Bill Ziefle and Steve Frink did not appoint themselves to anything!

    The BoD reviewed Mr. Frink’s view on Alert Diver and pursued a contract after he resigned from the Board.

    I personally sought a director emeritus declaration for Bill Ziefle when he left the Board many years ago. His depth of knowledge of the various DAN organizations is beyond anyone’s comprehension. He holds a JD degree as well as an MBA. Every task assigned to him by the BoD has been completed on time and in an excellent manner.

    When we reviewed how long, at what expense, along with the learning curve it would take to bring a new Executive Director up to speed, it was felt that Bill would be able to step into the role and continue the progress made over the past number of years. I have worked with Bill for over six years and have NEVER questioned his motives and have ALWAYS felt that the welfare of the DAN organization and its’ members was his utmost priority.

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  15. Den Munnden
    May 24, 2011 at 9:17 pm

    I have been diving since 1959. I am an avid reader. Over the years I have seen many dive magazines come and go. All of my family are divers and members of DAM. all of us and joined because we believe in the DAN mission. However until Mr. Frink took over Alert Diver it was just another informational “also ran”. It is now with out a doubt, a true quality publication. It still prints appropriate technical information and is still a technical journal. However the artistic format and presentation is simply first rate. It is now a cover to cover read!! With out a doubt it will bring new diver to our sport.

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  16. July 19, 2011 at 1:12 pm

    Dear All,

    We unfortunately can not comment on the DAN in your area, however we would like to say that feed back (good or bad) is always welcome. In our offices the DAN mission is very much alive and very much a part of our every day work, so feed back is always useful. And although the above mentioned article does not necessarily apply to our leg of the organisation it certainly is taken into consideration, however we are quite tiny by comparison to DAN USA our much bigger brother. However there are various Alert Divers by various DAN organisations around the world, and I would like to invite you to ready our online version – it however related to our area, but if you enjoy the US version or even dont perhaps this will be more up your alley. http://www.dansa.org – Under magazines, please be patient we are fairly new at doing our magazines, and we only do 2 a year unlike the US version.

    All the best and safe diving.

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  17. Michael Braunstein M.D.
    October 19, 2011 at 12:02 am

    Twice I have sent letters to DAN regarding errors in their medical articles. They did respond or publish either one although the errors were obvious. That is not appropriate behavior. it is my favorite scuba magazine however.

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  18. Walter Freeman
    December 18, 2011 at 1:11 am

    OK, here’s from a 40 year+ diver: I haven’t got time to indulge in silly games so I’ll cap it here. The mission is why I have supported DAN for years – I will continue to do so until I SEE that there has been a dilution of that mission. Meantime – I await the new mag with anticipation – it’s a class act. If I can have both worlds, I’ll be a enthusiastic supporter.

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  19. Terry L Brown
    March 20, 2012 at 1:56 am

    I LOVE the new magazine. As a photographer and diver it offers me so much more. I actually read most of the medical articles now too, which I didn’t before. Don’t go backwards, keep the new mix.

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  20. January 27, 2013 at 12:04 am

    http://mauisundivers.com
    Aloha,
    I’m a grumpy old pro and I still love diving. I also love DAN. Let’s forget about the politics and show some appreciation.
    I generally work w/ the over fed, nearly dead or newly wed here on Maui and I still love turning people on to scuba. Thousands of dives and divers over a 35 year period and I learn something new that I can use every time I pick up a copy! Want’a pick on someone? Try Pay Another Dollar In.

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  21. March 27, 2013 at 7:49 pm

    I have been diving since 1959. I have watched Diving mags. come and go. Alert Diver was always a good technical journal. Now with Steve Frink on board it is a total quality product and a great read from cover to cover. There is something positive to read every month. Overall DAN does a outstanding job in all respects. The only addition to Alert Diver I would like, is for Mr. Frink to add some kind of magic so I can take photos 1/20 as good as his!!!!!!!

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