How is Time Inc. different now from the last time you were at the company, as editor of Field & Stream?
On one hand, there’s this real interest in digital for right now. But the culture is the same. You feel like you’re surrounded by talented people, and that’s something I missed. I loved Garden & Gun, and they had amazing people, but they had an editorial staff of eight.
People must have thought you were crazy to go to Garden & Gun, an independent startup in Charleston, South Carolina.
A little. But I think they were a little jealous. I was ready for a change. I had lived in New York 14 years.
Did that experience prove you don’t have to be in New York to have a magazine career?
I didn’t know if you could have a successful magazine career outside of New York. It was an experiment. It helps to be here. There’s an awful lot of talent here. But one of the things it taught me is that there’s talent all over. We found tremendous photographers all over the South.
How’d you end up coming back?
I have a lot of ties to Time Inc. It’s a very collegial place. I know John [Huey, editor-in-chief at Time Inc.]; he’s a big supporter of Field & Stream. It’s really Martha [Nelson, Time Inc. editorial director]. I report to Martha. I knew Martha when I was at Field & Stream. I think she paid attention and I think she liked what I did at Field & Stream.
What lessons can you bring from men’s magazines, where you’ve spent most of your career, to the women’s titles you oversee now?
One thing men’s magazines do well is service. It’s a short road from how to clean a shotgun to how to bake a cake. I think there are opportunities for improvement here. It comes down to the basics: improving the design, improving the photography, improving the writing—sort of across the board. One of my mandates is to put the reader first. It’s easy to lose sight of that because you’re doing a lot of things. We’re going to make some improvements on the newsstand—that’s definitely a focus.
What do you say to encourage people here after all the cutbacks they’ve been through?
There’s nowhere to go but up. We’ve all been through a very difficult several years. But there’s a lot of camaraderie you can get by going through lean times. So I think the secret is to tap into that.
Garden & Gun had to be the most misunderstood title for a magazine.
It was. But it was also one of the most remembered. Magazine titles are so boring. No one would ever launch a magazine called Vanity Fair or Rolling Stone today. Garden & Gun signified a lifestyle; it was a connection to the land, the sporting life. It was actually named for a dance club in Charleston.
Does your job leave you any time for your passions, hunting and fishing?
Birmingham [Ala.] is a great place to be if you love the outdoors. It’s really in striking distance of so many places. But there’s great striped bass fishing under the Verrazano Bridge, too.
Have a favorite hunting story?
There are so many. I was on an elk hunt in Wyoming and fell off a horse and was dragged about 50 yards in the dark. The best part was, I actually lived to tell about it.