To: SubCommittee Executive Board
From: Jeff Porteous, member #1644
Re: SCR viability
First, allow me to add my voice to what should be a thundering chorus in praise of Jeff LaRue for putting to bed yet one more SCR issue above and beyond the call of duty. Bless 'im! And whatever Brian Wade's reasons for dropping out, thanks also are due him for at least agreeing to give the editorship the ol' college try.
That said, let me now express my bitter disappointment, even anger, over the sorry state the SCR now finds itself in. My concern is not so much that the publication is IN it's current situation -- the reasons for this ill health are widely known and perfectly understandable. No, my frustration is over the fact that so many now seem utterly content to just watch it wither and die on the vine. I sincerely hope this perception is merely my own foible, borne of shortsightedness or simple misunderstanding. But I must report I've seen little evidence to the contrary.
The problem, as we are all aware, is basically the lack of a dedicated new long-term editor to maintain the SCR as a printed presence for our hobby. Personally, I feel strongly that we NEED this printed presence; our entire membership is definitely NOT web-savvy, nor will or should it have to be. So to reach the whole organization with any kind of regular information stream, a printed-on-paper effort to call our own continues to be imperative. What's more, such a magazine should still exist if only for the sake of our already paid-up members: they DESERVE it. What other tangible value or benefit do they derive in exchange for their annual dues, anyway? And don't forget: an official publication, especially one traditionally as impressive as the SCR, undeniably lends legitimacy and prestige to our organization as a whole.
This is not brain surgery, folks: if we (obviously) can't acquire a volunteer editor to produce this endeavor, then we must hire one. And if the powers that be are telling us we don't currently have the funds to hire one, then we need to tweak our resources to allow for it.
Some time ago, the ever-pragmatic Jeff LaRue and I discussed at length the idea of a formal survey mailed to the entire organization, one which would seek everyone's thoughts on the SCR viability issue by ranking specific publication and price/value priorities. What ultimately became of this idea among the Executive Committee, I don't know. But it seems pretty obvious to me that if 1) the SCR's production workload is too high to realistically remain voluntary; and 2) funding is stretched too thin to hire an editor given current revenue; then there's absolutely no reason why the SCR can't or shouldn't go to FEWER PAGES and/or FEWER ISSUES and/or HIGHER SUBSCRIPTION FEES to make the thing work.
Publishing three times annually instead of four would save 25% of the usual costs, putting a lot of potential funds into the kitty for a part-time production editor right there. Ditto for fewer pages per issue, if necessary, which should save on printing and mailing costs as well. Lastly, with much, perhaps most, of our membership willing to embrace a several-hundred-dollar model sub or two, couldn't these folks also be counted on to swing a dues increase of $5 or $10 -- or more -- to be assured of continued mailings our unique, high quality hobby magazine? (P.S. I've heard the SubCommittee also has "emergency" funds squirreled away in the form of some CDs. If this situation doesn't rate as an "emergency," I don't know what does.)
All of these changes are simply in the name of producing more working capital with which to set up a paid editorship. But here's a news flash: fewer pages and/or issues would obviously also lessen the workload -- lending that much more feasibility to creating a part-time editorship in the first place.
To date, I believe it's merely been ASSUMED a paid position is unworkable -- without anyone really detailing the particulars for the membership. Isn't it the responsibility of the Executive Board to officially present fully crunched numbers so everyone can know the real story and then make an informed democratic decision?
Okay, now I'm really going to go out on a limb here and submit my belief that any talented Publications/Editing/Journalism/Advertising Major-type kid just out of college -- heck, maybe even still IN college -- would jump at the chance, especially in this economy, to earn some actual -- if entry-level -- money boosting his or her resume with real editorial experience (as opposed to, say, the fanzine s/he'd been running for no pay), even if only on an amateur level. I certainly would've in my day! And I'll further suggest that all that's required to reach this theoretical person is an ad submitted to the Placement Center of a couple of decent colleges or universities near Jeff LaRue's location (heck, I'll write it if you want), so he could conveniently (but briefly!) work in-person with a selected candidate.
Remember, knowledge of or even interest in submarines, models or anything related to our beloved hobby WOULD NOT EVEN BE REQUIRED in this candidate. What's essential instead is writing and typesetting ability (for necessary proofing or polishing of material submitted for publication), actual publishing and/or editorial experience (college newspaper or yearbook work, anyone?), a high comfort level with computerized page layout and related software (aren't kids these days all learning html and designing their own web pages?), plus the absolute ability to work with our established printer in adhering to specific format demands, timetables, deadlines, etc. (info. which could be readily passed along by LaRue in a couple in-person sessions). I really don't think this stuff represents all that much of a stretch. (And I must say I'm sorry here to speak for Jeff in speculatively committing him to any further obligation, but my guess is that he'd be willingly up to this temporary task. Proven long-term loyalty works that way!)
But, you ask, without a sub enthusiast at the helm, what happens to editorial direction? Good point. But I'm convinced decisions concerning which submitted articles and columns should run in a given issue could be handled fairly easily over the phone by LaRue -- or perhaps by others of the Executive Board instead . . . or even by a mutually pre-agreed-upon SC member acting as "guest editor" of the month/issue/season, especially if the paid production editor is keeping close tabs on page counts, filler needs, etc. -- which of course is the whole idea.
And the situation with the current dearth of submitted material? My guess is that article submissions have dried up because former and even potential new contributors, seeing the SCR's predicted demise written on the wall, have simply already pronounced it dead. Understandably, these folks have no interest in tossing good effort to the four winds. Perhaps an announced -- and soon proven -- new lease on life for the SCR would open up the submission gates once again. Am I dreaming? Maybe. But it sure seems a worthwhile dream.
Which leads me to also say that sure, okay, I admit it: this paid editor approach could ultimately blow up pretty easily in our collective faces. Granted. But isn't it at least worth the effort to find out how well it might work before giving up on our printed magazine altogether?
To me, there is simply no excuse not to at least TRY to maintain a regularly printed publication for this hobby of SOME sort, committing the finances necessary to make it happen as needed. Let's do together whatever it takes to return the SCR to robust good health -- even if that admittedly means producing it on a less ambitious scale than we've all enjoyed in the past.
Just one man's opinion,