The Perils of Veracity in Dive Reporting:
Undercurrent is unique in diving media

John BantinIn the early ‘90s, I was so financially secure I gave up my otherwise successful career at the age of 45 to get involved in the diving industry. I was able to manufacture my job as Technical Editor of the British Diver Magazine because I could make them a financial offer they couldn’t refuse, working for only a notional fee.

At that time, there was a lot of unprofessionalism and self-serving contributions to diving magazines worldwide (only Undercurrent, a modest diving newsletter, broke that mold), and I was determined to take on the role professionally. The then proprietor of Diver, Bernard Eaton, made the good call to give me my head.

Resort and liveaboard operators and equipment manufacturers initially hated me because I told the truth about them, but soon realized I favored none of their rivals, so I eventually garnered their respect.

Years later, a doyen of the industry, Bob Hollis, bought me lunch and told me I was a ‘pillar of the industry.” I was polite enough not to remind him that he was the first (of several) to threaten to sue me for what I’d written.

The readers loved the new and honest Diver, and circulation climbed to 55,000 readers, unprecedented for a niche publication. I like to think I played my part in that, and my recompense became commensurate on the payroll. Advertising revenue followed.

But veracity comes with a price. I was often the target of disgruntled and envious posters on social media. When I enthusiastically promoted the revolutionary vacuum leak test of one underwater camera housing manufacturer, others accused me of being in the company’s pay. I even had to resort to sending the invoice for my own housing to Adam Hanlon, the editor of Wetpixel, to prove it had not been a gift.

The funny thing is that although many who had invested in other makes of housing disputed the usefulness of the vacuum test, the company, Hugyfot, generously did not patent the idea so that other manufacturers could adopt it. The rest is history.

Of course, there will always be pioneering manufacturers with new products that have no rival when they are released. The Buddy Inspiration rebreather was one. The Ocean Reef full-face mask is another. Although I gave them the oxygen of publicity, I also reported on the design problems that became apparent when used by a typical diver, a guy like me.

I’m pleased that manufacturers were invariably happy to accept my empirical research and modify their products. However, some distributors merely wanted to sell their existing unmodified warehoused stock and complained bitterly about my reports.

To get my attention, all the manufacturers provided me with endless equipment to test and report. They allowed me to keep it with the proviso that they did not have to compete with me in the marketplace. I still hear stories of “writers” or “influencers” getting stuff ostensibly to test but selling it before it’s been anywhere near water.

Bernard Eaton died in 2012, and Diver magazine reverted to the conventional business model of chasing advertising revenue instead of writing the unvarnished truth for its readers. It’s finally gone the same way as many other publications which followed that path. Luckily for me, Undercurrent takes no advertising and still concentrates on serving its subscribers, so here I am.

John Bantin

Rating: 5.0/5. From 19 votes.
Please wait...

6 thoughts on “The Perils of Veracity in Dive Reporting: <small><br><em>Undercurrent</em> is unique in diving media</small>”

  1. As a (very) long time subscriber, I remember that UnderCurrent’s exposure of how dangerous Cozumel was in the 70’s (people died yearly) was what established its credibility. After witnessing several life-threatening situations there, I quit diving in Cozumel for a decade. I’m happy to report that the situation is now much different, and is actually one of the safer places to go diving.

    No votes yet.
    Please wait...
  2. Thank you for showing courage and encouraging others to do the same. It is hard to know where to turn in our world (not just in diving) and I hope others will follow your wonderful example, even though it can it a hard path. Again, many thanks.

    Rating: 5.0/5. From 1 vote.
    Please wait...
  3. Having been a diver since 1964 and a professional instructor since 1969 I have watched the industry and related magazines go from print only (Skin Diver) to the internet-based sources of today. I remember the first Undercurrent and how refreshing it was to read an unbiased, report it as it is, source. I believe I can predict the “Editor’s Choice” by looking at the size and number of ads.
    Recently I read an article that listed Texas as one of the best dive destinations in the US & Carribean. Living and instructing here in the Dallas area for over 30 years I sure don’t know of any great diving with the exception of the Flower Gardens which is 100+ nm off- shore. If you want to introduce your students to their first open water dive, in water with 25+’ of visibility you have to dive over 150 miles one-way.
    Keep up the good work. If you ever need some help, please don’t hesitate to reach out.
    Dave Wheeler – PADI MSDT #1698, PSS, HSA

    Rating: 5.0/5. From 2 votes.
    Please wait...
  4. Diver Magazine was a staple of our reading as BSAC members in Lusaka and Dar es Salaam in the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s. My wife and I have been subscribing to Undercurrent now for at least 20 years. We need more people like you and Undercurrent now, more than ever. Keep it up!

    Rating: 5.0/5. From 1 vote.
    Please wait...
  5. John
    I look forward to reading your reports.. We have yet to go back to diving in warm water due to Covid. Hope to be travelling again soon . Hope to see more on diving in Mexico… we dove off Cozumel many moons ago and we’re so turned off by the crap unsafe dive operations we tried. We used to dive with a club Med in Bahamas and found good safe spots there.
    Welcome to theUndercurrent pages!
    Brian and Elaine P
    Brentwood Bay
    B.C.
    Canada

    Rating: 5.0/5. From 1 vote.
    Please wait...
  6. it´s great to read your report but sad at the same time, wether it´s job, health, environment, politics, relationship etcetera, people don´t like to be told the truth and often hate guys like you, who are just frank and honest – well I follow and observe your politics in my life as well either open or nothing at all, but you surely stumble across a lot of obstacles this way, like you show in your examples

    Rating: 4.8/5. From 4 votes.
    Please wait...

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.