We have trouble recalling the name of the nature magazine (it’s actually called “Woods & Wildlife”) that keeps sending Mark Trail a paycheck even though we suspect the Internet has slashed its business by at least two-thirds of what it was in its heyday. What we do have some certainty of, however, is that this periodical may be one of the most boring on the newsstand.
How do we know? Why, just check out today’s episode of “Mark Trail” and listen surreptitiously to the big doings at Mallard Monthly or Flora & Fauna or whatever rustic-sounding moniker the book has incorporated into its title these days: “A gold bird band with a Bible passage on it?” shouts out wide-eyed editor Bill Ellis. “Sounds like a GREAT story!”
And now you know why the print medium is swirling ’round the drain. Simply put, a gold bird band with a Bible passage in it is NOT a “great story,” nor is it even a mediocre one. In fact, we think it barely passes muster to qualify as the sort of dreck an experienced journalist would pass on to the summer intern, but we here at Comics Examiner have no support staff upon which we might test such a theory.
We hate to rain on Bill Ellis’s parade, but he needs to be drumming up the sort of intense, thoroughly reported, color-filled reportage that might elevate “Woods & Wildlife” to the level of The New Yorker, The Atlantic or Rolling Stone. The power of print, Bill – you Prilosec-sucking beancounter, you – is in long, detailed stories that are dramatic in sweep and whose sheer density of fact and detail cannot be matched by bloggers piggybacking on your content.
So cut it out with the isn’t-that-neat assignments to Trail telling us about Bible-passage-filled gold bands on geese, Bill (who, by the way, doesn’t appear able to afford a pair of eyeglass frames manufactured after 1961). Instead, start hiring journos who can travel somewhere, get the facts, mix in a little clever wordplay and deliver a 5,000 word story that sings!
Sadly, we think Bill, clearly taking loads of pills and a bottle of gin to allay the severe financial pressure he must be under in today’s financial climate, is too focused on short hits that can generate web traffic (does Woods & Wildlife even have a digital presence?).
Hear this, Ellis: Your money will NOT BE FOUND ONLINE! Your readers and advertisers are all hidebound page-turners – a circulation clearly weighted by folks in their 50s and 60s just treading water media-wise. They’ll use magazines, newspapers and Yellow Pages until the day they die because a) the backwards-looking companies that make money off these things can’t for the life of them come up with working digital venues and b) they’re too old to learn how to use the new stuff well.
To do so, Bill might want to dump Mark Trail. Ever the modernist, Trail is clearly trying to sell stuff that will generate page views – and plenty of dimes to keep wife Cherry in hip-hugging khakis. Even though Trail is keeping up wtih the times, it’s up to slightly inebriated Bill Ellis to tell him to get back to his roots – fascinating, in-depth stories about colorful topics that require hours of time. Empty-headed stuff about goose bands or daffodils or wayward deer migratory habits simply isn’t up to snuff. Get with the program, Trai,l and dig up some rustlers, poachers or corrupt government officials who will make “Woods & Wildlife” the scream of The Drudge Report and nature-news aggregagtors,
Until that time, Bill Ellis will be holed up in his wood-paneled office drinking Glenlivet through a cocaine-laced nose straw and hoping against hope that the private-equity firm that snatched up his ailing nature title a few years back isn’t getting ready to foreclose on the property.
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