“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. That striving, that ambition is an essential part of our newspapers, a cornerstone of what we have been, what we are, and what we will be.”
We used to run that quote by Pulitzer Prize winner Lee Hills on the pages of our newspapers, Steeplechase Times and The Saratoga Special. He was an executive at Knight Ridder, a big deal in journalism, and he could turn a phrase especially when it came to phrases about turning phrases or whatever it is we did then and still do now. It was meant to be something of a mission statement, a declaration and also a little motivation. I’m not sure where we found it, but it summarizes the quest to produce a quality editorial product of any type–newspaper, magazine, book, iPad app, what have you.
I usually put it a little simpler than Hills and have been known to say things like, “The only way to not make a mistake is to not publish the magazine [or newspaper].” Another favorite is, “You’re only as good as your last newspaper [or magazine] and thank God we’ve got another one to work on.”
Either way, the task of creating something people want to read is a little bit easier when you admit that you’ll never get it just right. There will always be something you want to improve. An old college professor of mine wrote a book on writing called How to Not Right Bad, Rite Bad, Wright Bad, Write Bad. I should finish reading it, but I like to think we’re not writing bad at Mid-Atlantic Thoroughbred and it was nice to be reminded recently.
In May, Sean Clancy won the David F. Woods Award for the top Preakness story of 2013 (my brother’s fourth such honor). In June, Mid-Atlantic Thoroughbred was lucky enough (and good enough I guess) to be recognized with four first-place awards in the 2013 editorial contest held by American Horse Publications. Four other articles and photos won secondary awards. We were honored for good work about good horses and good people. See page 10 for a short rundown and check out the winners here.
Winning sure beats losing, but those plaques, certificates and trophies don’t help us make fewer mistakes or meet more deadlines (this magazine being a perfect example). There’s always work to be done, much like in the horse business. The groom always wants his horse to shine a little more. The trainer always wants her horse to eat better. The breeder always wants his horse to live up to its well-researched pedigree. The owner always wants her horse to come through on one more big day.
I don’t know who’s who in that analogy, but–like the horse business–the magazine business takes plenty of hands and you wouldn’t be reading this without all of them–Barrie, Cindy, Lydia, several Annes, Cricket, Maggie, Vinnie, Sean, Tom, Kathee, Lynne, Jeff, Dan, Sandy, Linda and some others I’m sure. Don’t forget the publishers. None of this would be possible without the Maryland Horse Breeders Association board and its decision to stay in the magazine business. Then there’s you–the readers, advertisers, participants in this quest with us.
Finally, there are the horses. Like Patti Colbert says on page 26, we’re all involved because of the horses. We like telling their stories.
So, while we’re proud of ourselves, proud of what we do, proud of the direction of this magazine, we’re not finished. As Lee Hills put it, we’re always just getting started.