Monday, 27 June 2016

And Then There Was One

When I started riding I began to voraciously consume motorcycling magazines.  It took me a while to figure out which ones were good, but for a while there I just went all in.  Being Canadian I thought it prudent to get a sense of Canada's motorcycling media, so I made a point of looking past the wall of American magazines to find a Canadian voice.

 The two I settled on were Cycle Canada and Motorcycle Mojo.  CC seemed to be edited by a writer with lots of motorcycle experience (rather than an expert motorcyclist with little writing experience).  Reading other magazines sometimes felt like reading a kid's essay that they'd been made to write.  No one seemed to revel in writing like Neil Graham did.  He was consistently acerbic, challenging and opinionated, but he clearly enjoyed writing.  I really looked forward to reading him each month.

I found Mojo a short while later.  Its modern layout (many other Canadian magazines looked like they'd been designed on a photocopier), and crowd sourced travel pieces got me hooked.  Mojo feels like it's put together by a community rather than a small group of motorcycle industry insiders who don't know how to write very well.

A few months ago CC arrived at my door.  As I got into it I discovered that the two writers who do the majority of the heavy lifting in producing the magazine were leaving.  Many readers seemed relieved to see the back of the complicated and difficult Graham, but I missed that voice.  A magazine that was once a drop-everything-and-read-it proposition (and Canadian!) was now filled with news pieces that looked like they were written by an ESL writer in single, giant paragraphs; a computer could construct better grammar.  The new writer they brought in was an old writer they'd let go.  His MO seems to be to say something controversial at the beginning of each article even if what he's saying is inconsistent from page to page.  The article on the new Harley Davidson is making fun of sport bike riders, the article on a sports bike makes fun of cruiser riders, and his recent piece on the new Honda Africa Twin allowed him to take pot-shots at adventure bike riders.  I get no sense of who he actually is or what he likes.  This approach seems disingenuous and makes me hesitate to trust him.

The newsletter modelled magazines that feel like they are driven by industry interests rather than independent editorial opinion have already been dropped.  Mojo & CC were my only Canadian subscriptions to renew, but now it's down to a single Canadian mag.  The hole left in the Canadian motorcycling publication landscape by Graham leaving Cycle Canada has made a sure thing a has-been.

 In the meantime I'm looking world-wide for my motorcycle periodicals.  The three I've settled on are Motorcycle Mojo (Canada), Cycle World (US) and BIKE (UK).  The last two are driven by professional writers who know motorcycles and not only write well, but seem to enjoy doing it.  I've never read a complaint about having to fill up space with writing or meet deadlines in either, although this seems to be a common subject for editorial discussion in many Canadian magazines.

I'm not reading any more magazines, Canadian or not, that make me feel like I'm reading an essay a kid was forced to write for school.  If the writing is that difficult, don't work for a magazine.  Writing is a skill unto itself, and it should be something you enjoy (it's what will make you work to improve it instead of just trudging up to deadlines while complaining about them in print).  Just because you're an expert in the subject area doesn't mean you're an expert at communicating it in writing.  Life's too short to read things written badly by people who aren't that good at it and couldn't care less about their writer's craft.