Here’s your magazine. Maybe you just started reading. Maybe you’ve been reading for decades. Maybe you remember the Maryland Horse from all those years ago.
Regardless, this is your magazine – literally and figuratively. The one in your hand or on your computer screen belongs to you. And so does the magazine. The Maryland Horse magazine started as a four-pager in 1936 as a means to communicate the news of the state’s breeding and racing industry. Since then, the publication has twisted and turned, meandered and moved to its present incarnation – a regional monthly with page counts in the hundreds.
That doesn’t happen without effort, be it performed by original editor Humphrey Finney or the others who skillfully filled the role. Officially, I’m the interim editor (like Vinnie Perrone was for the past few months). In June, the magazine lost Lucy Acton, who joined the staff in 1985 and rose to editor in 2002. Her steady hand guided the writing, editing, producing of a magazine long looked to as a leader in Thoroughbred publishing. She lost a battle with cancer, but not before making sure the disease knew it was in a battle.
I’m not replacing Lucy, or Vinnie, or anyone else. I’m continuing the progression, taking the magazine into the future along with a small, dedicated, talented staff. We’ll find out together what that future brings – remember, this is your magazine. And, for the record, my company’s editorial projects Steeplechase Times and The Saratoga Special aren’t going anywhere. The to-do list now simply includes Mid-Atlantic Thoroughbred as well.
These are strange times for print media. Economics, technology, time have brought change, big change. Successful magazines adapt, flex, change, reinvent. And thrive.
For all its electronic development (iPads, Kindles, smartphones and so on), publishing still includes wildly popular print products. The weekly Sports Illustrated has 3.5 million subscribers. The monthly Runner’s World has increased circulation for 16 consecutive years.
Print media isn’t dead, or even dying. It is adapting – which sounds very much like the situation in Thoroughbred racing. And, as good as it is, Mid-Atlantic Thoroughbred must change along with both industries it occupies.
The magazine needs to be a better resource, a better voice, a better vehicle for news, entertainment, thought. It needs more value. Hopefully, you noticed a subtle change or two last month – the addition of the Post Time photo spread, the expansion of the Looking Back section. This month, we aimed to improve the front of the magazine by creating more places to stop, more reasons to look, more “Hey, did you see this?” items. As always, the features provide the anchor – the hook on which the magazine hangs its editorial reputation. Few publications even bother with multi-thousand word profiles on people, horses, farms, places anymore. Mid-Atlantic Thoroughbred always has. Always will.
Like raising or training a racehorse, however, the work of producing a magazine never really concludes. You can always improve. You can always strive to be better. Your horse can always be healthier, fitter, shinier, better prepared. He can’t always be faster, but that doesn’t mean people stop trying.
Nothing describes the effort better than the following from former Knight Ridder chief executive Lee Hills.
“Editorial excellence is not a goal to be sought and one day acquired and then retired to the trophy case. It is instead an ambition which must be pursued each day, never ending, never totally achieved. . .”
He said that in 1974, before before 24-hour news, before Google, before Twitter, before Facebook, yet the statement applies today and will always apply to any worthwhile journalistic endeavor. This magazine isn’t the The Miami Herald (where Hills won a Pulitzer Prize) and isn’t going to sit down with world leaders (Hills once interviewed Nikita Khrushchev). But it’s going to do the best it can at what it does: chronicling Thoroughbred racing and breeding in the Mid-Atlantic, following horses that change lives, finding stories people like to read, striving for editorial excellence.
And we’re going to bring you along for the ride.