No One’s Telling Me Different!

October 6, 2000 - 00:00

As much as the editors of this and other industry trade publications try to get out in the field to "meet and greet," we will never make the acquaintance of more than a fraction of our readership.

As much as the editors of this and other industry trade publications try to get out in the field to "meet and greet," we will never make the acquaintance of more than a fraction of our readership.

By the same token, I have only met two of the editors involved with the 20 or so magazines I count as my very favorites. One is Mark Kane, former editor of Fine Gardening, who hired me in the early ‘90s to assist in launching Garden Gate, a consumer magazine. He then moved onward and upward to assume the position of gardening editor at Better Homes & Gardens.

The other editor, Asa Baber, works at, well, let’s refer to this publication as a large-circulation men’s magazine that also runs "important, in-depth" feature articles. I know him by simple virtue of having been a student in a college journalism class he taught.

Although I will likely never meet the editors of most of my other favorite magazines, I still feel a special bond with them, or more precisely, with the magazines they work for. Have you ever felt somehow betrayed, as I have, when you flip through the latest issue of a favorite magazine and realize that it has changed? My first thoughts run along the lines of, "What’s with the weird table of contents?" "Why did all the photos become smaller and why are their fewer of them?" or "What do you mean the venerable Joe Blow will no longer grace these pages with his insightful columns?"

This desire that magazines stay the same might be a generational thing because glancing at trendy magazines such as Wired or Premiere has led me to believe that their editorial and production staffs are overhauled almost monthly. This may be the challenge (or curse) of publishers, producers and advertising agencies trying to appeal to today’s "13- to-35-year-old" demographic group.

The moguls at MTV once thought they owned these consumers. (Remember the "MTV Generation"?) Until very recently, Nike thought it owned these consumers. The purchase of Time Warner by AOL is being portrayed as the marriage of two dinosaurs. (AOL is way more than a year old, don’t you know?) Indeed, the pace is so dizzying in the world of E-commerce that the very act of going public can confer "has-been" status upon a cyber company that 12 months ago was no more than the glimmer in the eye of some 22-year-old grad student.

Anyway. Where were we? Magazines! I put a lot of stock in my favorite magazines not only because they provide useful and interesting information but because they provide emotional sustenance.

A magazine bolsters a sense of community. If your life’s passion is waterfowl decoys, model trains or pig motifs you likely subscribe to at least one magazine in which these interests are celebrated, debated and dissected.

A magazine is a constant in a changing world. Whether it arrives weekly, monthly or quarterly, you can anticipate coming home from a rough day at work and seeing it in your mailbox. You can choose either to flip through it immediately, or plop it next to the recliner and anticipate the pleasure of sitting down and falling asleep with it after dinner.

A magazine is a true friend. Any good editor writes to an imaginary reader. This reader is one part a composite of readers met in the field, on the phone, via e-mail and "snail" mail. But the reader also is one part the editor. Yes, the imaginary reader for whom the editor toils is very much like – the editor!

My "reader" blends all the aspects of the people I’ve met in the field. If I’ve met you, the odds are almost overwhelming that your face and my recollections of you flash in my mind at some point through the course of editing.

Almost everyone I’ve met in this industry is very serious about turning a profit without conceding quality, but not at the expense of overlooking the ironies, contradictions and general funniness that follow us and our day-to-day activities like shadows. This then is the "voice" I hope GPN conveys. It’s the means by which I hope you connect with this magazine.

I’m particularly interested in your feedback because GPN has been slowly but surely shifting its focus. No major topic, be it production technology, new varieties, bedding plants or management, is in danger of being phased out. But the magazines is beginning to devote more editorial space to marketing, retail, industry issues, and specialty crops (dare I even saywoody crops?), to name a few topics that spring right to mind.

Does this strike you as the road to salvation or perdition? Let me know, in pleasant or unpleasant terms!

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