I carried out a series of interviews with people from the outdoor/adventure magazine industry recently to ask them advice on breaking into their world. They agreed to let me post up their reply on this blog to help others in a similar position.
The first is with the Editor of ‘The Surfers Path’ Alex Dick-Read.
1.How did you get into the industry?
Hard to know. When I was eighteen I went to the UK to work in a board factory and from that I met a load of people who, as the years went by, I realized were part of the core of the UK industry. So by the time I was asked to edit a surf magazine I knew a few people. Prior to starting the magazine I was working as a new/features journalist for AP and Reuters, so switching into the surf world again was strange but since I knew a few people, not too hard.
2.Describe your role?
I started the magazine, so my role has been everything from broad outline/concept creation to making tea and everything in between. In general it is all about soliciting, selecting and editing images and stories for each page. There is a lot of writing – even good contributors’ work needs editing simply to fit the page allocations etc. Plus captions, standfirsts, news stories, interviews, editorials, and all the elements within the broad architecture of a magazine. In recent years, website and social media have taken up more and more time. But overall, a huge portion of time is spent corresponding with contributors etc. and up keeping the web.
3. What does your day to day work schedule involve?
Starts with emails and that might not end until lunchtime or beyond. Website and social media stuff is integrated into that because so many emails involve links to films, stories etc that might work well on the website. So email and web stuff can take a lot of the day. If I’m lucky I get to start real editing work – writing, reading, choosing shots etc. – in the afternoon and I’ll do that until about an hour before dark, then go and surf.
4.What skills do you think are required to do your job?
Patience. Quick writing skills. Good communications, including politeness and respect to total strangers. A good eye for images and a good eye for synchronicity where ever it occurs. Sometimes you can be working on two things that seem totally different and suddenly you see a link or a theme that makes absolutely natural partners – perhaps shots on a page or stories you’re preparing for the page, or even parts of a story you’re editing that can unblock a piece and suddenly give it great flow. Things can become more than their component parts added together, if you can spot those lines.
5.Do you think a journalism degree or work experience/internships are more important?
Well, I did a post grad journalism diploma and intern work and they were both invaluable. Intern work is great because you’re in it, you’re meeting real people doing the real work and soon enough you know if it’s for you and if it isn’t. If it is, other people notice and you’re likley to get a leg up. Plus it just gives you real experiences to draw on. Degrees? They’re ok for some important stuff like law, shorthand, media theory etc. but not as essential as the job experience.
6.Best part of the job?
People. Waves. Perks.
7.Worst part of the job?
Low, low pay. Long, long hours. Super shitty, awful employers who treat you like dirt. They don’t surf. They don’t appreciate. All they want is a good bottom line and sometimes you end up fighting because of that.
8.How would you describe the job market for this area of work in the UK?
Is there one? It’s terrible all over. The surf media relies on surf industry support and the surf industry has been laying off hundreds of people and slashing budgets to almost zero. So the knock on effect to media is just brutal. The way to get work is to do good work and get it under the nose of an editor and keep doing it. But expect to be paid very little because that editor hardly has any budget.
9. Any advice for people wanting to break into the industry?
Keep the day job.
10. Does working in an area that you love and was once perhaps your favourite hobby, take some of the magic away from the outdoors, because your surrounded by it all the time.? As in you can no longer use it as an escape? (It’s just something I worry about.)
It works that way, for sure. But to be honest, the experience of surfing – of being in the ocean and becoming actively involved with it’s pulses – is such a visceral and powerful thing that it puts the job stuff into perspective. When you’re submerged in nature like that, the job stuff seems so minor and the here and now is all that matters. 99% of the time the act of surfing feels like a perk and actually makes the work side of it seem sort of … worth it.
Check out the website for more information on the magazine.