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As many of our readers have so accurately pointed out during the past two and a half years, American Way has taken a dramatic and pronounced turn toward service journalism. We feel that it is our responsibility to not just entertain you, our readers, but to inform you as well.

Of course, we know our role in the world of publishing. We don’t try to out-Time Time, to out-People People, to out-Herald the Miami Herald. We’re well aware that print media is fighting for its life, and we support our brothers- and sisters-in-arms as they battle for their very existence. We’re also well aware that American Way is perhaps more fortunate than our contemporaries because we don’t have to fight for subscriptions or newsstand sales. Historically, other in-flights viewed their fixed audiences as a crutch for their content: They realized that whether you genuinely wanted to read about what they considered the best beaches in the world or you just needed a map to help you maneuver around JFK International Airport, they’d inevitably get your eyes in their magazines. Honestly, we were guilty of the same hubris. After all, the economy was booming, new magazines were popping up all the time, and selling advertising was no harder than answering a ringing phone.

Then the bottom fell out and magazines and newspapers began folding right and left. Something of a publishing revolution occurred in the world of in-flight magazines, with some titles retooling by moving to different publishing companies. A couple decided to essentially do away with meaty editorial content in exchange for quick-hit content, while others began to run syndicated stories. One in-flight runs 20-plus-page advertorials. From a publishing standpoint, who can blame them? It’s a lot cheaper to use stock photography and canned stories and advertisements than it is to commission original work.

American Way made a conscious decision two and a half years ago to go in the other direction. Although our bottom line wouldn’t be as robust, we committed to scouting out and hiring the best writers, photographers and illustrators from around the world. And we committed to making our content varied, entertaining and, most important, consequential. I’m proud to announce a very positive, very measurable result from our efforts.

Montel Williams, of talk-show fame, was on an American Airlines flight last July. Montel is no stranger to long-haul flights or to American Airlines (his wife, Tara Fowler, is an AA flight attendant), and he has his routine. He sits down, listens to some music and takes a nap.

On this particular flight, though, a flight attendant woke him up, holding a copy of American Way in her hand. A lady in the back of the plane had asked the flight attendant to present a particular story to Montel.

“I was wondering what was so important that I was woken up,” he told me recently. “I was really curious, so I started reading the article. Then I read it again. The next day, I asked my assistant to find every person in that article. And shortly after that, I was on a plane to Wisconsin.”

To Follow Montel Williams’ progress with the Wisconsin Project, visit www.montelnetwork.com
The article, “Activating the Brain,” reported on experimental research coming out of the University of Wisconsin to help retrain the brains of people living with multiple sclerosis by using a device that stimulates the tongue. Some of the participants reported being able to talk again, sing again, even walk again. Montel, who was diagnosed with MS in 1999, was admitted to the double-blind study and within two weeks, he had regained the mobility in his legs and feet that had deteriorated over the last decade. “Without the article, I don’t know if I’d have found out about the study,” Montel says. “It’s had a very real, very profound effect on me, and I’m now an advocate.”

A longtime champion of human rights — and a 22-year military veteran — Montel is doing what he’s always done and relaying important, beneficial information to the people. Last month, he presented to top administrators at Walter Reed Army Medical Center about the benefits of this device with the intent of helping troops afflicted with brain trauma. “I’ve been visiting with troops at the medical military complexes in Washington, D.C., for years,” Montel says. “When I learned about this device, and after I experienced it firsthand, I firmly believe that it can serve a role in helping soldiers who’ve suffered brain damage. I’m so excited about the benefits of this device, and I’m grateful to American Way for reporting on it.”

Indeed, we at American Way know our role in the publishing world. We’re here to inform, to entertain and, whenever possible, to help.