Yesterday, out of the blue, the current copy of Outpost magazine, a Toronto publication, turned up in my mailbox. Hmmmm. I hadn't renewed my subscription, so why was it here? Oh yes, there's a sheet of paper saying Please renew, here's a courtesy copy to sweeten the pot.
A look through this November-December 2006 issue reinforces my decision not to renew: It's just sloppy production, from editing to proofing to layout, and not worth my time to wade through.
But if you don't mind photo captions that do not describe the photo, and editorial content that's indistinguishable from ad content, then more power to you.
One story, about a river named Tatshenshini, caught my attention. A wonderful photo of ice floes, a teaser on the cover, and the story itself -- father and grown son off on an adventure.
But where, you might well ask, is the Tatshenshini River? Good question. I had to read about 300 words into the story to get the idea that it just might be in the Yukon (the author's setting out from Whitehorse gave me a clue). I was about to google the river name just to find out where this wondrous tale took place. Readers shouldn't have to work that hard to find out the basic Who, What, When, Where, Why of a story; the editor should if the writer didn't.
Another story included a photo of two large elephants; the amazingly informative cutline confirmed them to be 'elephants'. No other details.
Several years ago, when I first began reading Outpost, it contained some wonderfully written travel stories, albeit always in the first person. That's all right, as far as it goes, for independent travel seems to be Outpost's focus. But lately, the stories are first person boring, as if transcribed from a taped running commentary detailing all the minutiae of the traveler's day. TMI (too much info): I don't really care what every person you met along the way said to you.
But to be fair, maybe the change is in me, not with Outpost. Maybe too, I am still annoyed that the photo contest submissions I sent in a few years back, each photo clearly labeled with my contact info, replete with SASE for return, never were. A sign of administrative sloppiness that's permeating the magazine. If Outpost can find its way to the Land of Good Editing and Proofing, I for one would be the first to rise up and cheer.