I suppose it isn’t all that unique. Many people, especially since 2008, have had that kick in the gut moment when they show up at the office and the office is no longer. For me, it was a few months back when I came to the quarterly editorial pizza lunch to help invent the next issue of Montana Quarterly Magazine. Maybe I should have known something was in the wind when they went from gourmet to franchise-style pizza, a few meetings earlier. But I’m not that subtle. So I was ambushed by the news that the powers that be, a distant publishing entity, had decided in their wisdom (made up of doses of bottom line logic and shareholder sway and when-in-doubt, double down on austerity measures) to dump the magazine.
No after-the-next-issue. No notice. You’re done. Today.
It didn’t take long for that “Fuck those fuckin’ fuckers!” sentiment to kick in. About a day, in fact. A bunch of us met. Editors, writers, photographers, graphic designers, the ad sales guy. We pissed and moaned for a time, cursed the lack of vision of corporate boardrooms, ratcheted up the defiance, brainstormed potential investors, bandied big numbers, imagined how we would run things. When that ran out we started actually talking about how this magazine we’d all come to love and value might soldier on.
The biggest come-to-Jesus moment came when Bob, the ad guy, said that it would pretty much be the kiss of death to miss an issue. Which meant that the next issue would be due out in roughly two months. Two months to wangle a deal for the magazine, fashion a business plan, write the editiorial, design the layout, line up the printing, all while putting together the transition logistics and getting out the winter issue like nothing was amiss. Right. I don’t know about everyone else at that first meeting, but I know I was skeptical.
I’m happy to say that I was wrong. New owner (former Senior Editor) Scott McMillion, not only made the deal happen with Darth Vader, he also pulled together the website (which had never been the magazine’s strong suit), contacted subscribers, lined up editorial, got the issue written, photographed, edited, printed, including ad sales, and had it in subscriber mailboxes on time. It was an unbelievable feat under intense pressure and against ungodly odds. It was my honor to be able to contribute a story about the rather amazing Constitutional Convention of 1972, a watershed event in Montana’s history.
Here’s the thing. The second issue under new and liberated management is underway. I’m working on a series of profiles from the oilfields out east this time around. “Adventures in Frackland” is my working title. I’m really happy to still have a niche at a western regional magazine that isn’t all hook & bullet or trendy home remodeling. A magazine with stories about real people, issues with weight, a compilation based on a place worth extolling not for the latest trend, but for the qualities of landscape and character that endure long after the fad fades.
If you liked MQ before, you’ll like it better now that we’re out from under the bootheel of corporate. If you haven’t read MQ yet, you should give it a try, and if you enjoy, sign up for a subscription, or give a subscription to someone who deserves it, or both. You’ll feel good. You’ll be supporting actual journalism. And you’ll be part of the team that responded to the kick in the gut by getting the next damn issue out the door on time and with the same high standards of quality readers have come to anticipate . . . . plus a little edge of attitude. You’ll also help keep MQ alive, because unlike many publications out there, we actually depend on the loyalty and issue-to-issue support of our public, readers like you.
So go to the MQ website and sign up for the ride. You won’t regret it. And thanks.