KSJ Tracker August 17, 2012

Discover magazine update

[8:46 pm: Updates with more accurate description of Pamela Weintraub's role at the magazine.]

Following the news that Discover magazine will be moving to Waukesha, Wisconsin at the end of the year, I asked Editor in Chief Corey Powell what he could tell me about the transition and the magazine's future.

The executives at Kalmbach Publishing Co., which bought Discover two years ago, have told Powell that they "like the magazine as it is, and the intention is to keep the magazine intact." Several members of the staff have been offered the opportunity to move to Waukesha--including Powell--but no one has accepted that offer so far. Powell said he has decided not to make the move. "For all intents and purposes, it will be an all-new staff."

That means the most of the current staff will be let go. Powell will be staying on as a consultant through the first few months of next year, and Executive Editor Pamela Weintraub said she will continue on "in some iteration of 'consulting executive editor' until summer 2013,   trying to help them make the transition in Wisconsin while working from NYC. Yes I will edit features but will also do whatever else is needed to try to keep quality high."

Powell did not want to comment on whether or not Discover is making money. "I think it’s OK to say the business is not good right now, or we wouldn’t be making this move.... You can see the challenge—how you make sure you don’t make any sacrifices while you respond to the fact that the industry is getting tougher and tougher."

But it's more than a cost-cutting move. Kalmbach publishes magazines devoted to hobbies and crafts, such as Model Railroader, Bead Style, Cabin Life, BirdWatching, and American Snowmobiler. Discover is the only magazine not under the same roof in Waukesha, about 20 miles west of Milwaukee. It is a thousand miles away from those other magazines, literally and figuratively. I mean no slight to the reporters and editors at the other mags, but Discover runs with the big dogs in a way that the others do not.

Powell, by far the most senior person on the staff, has been at Discover for 15 years, the last three or so as editor in chief. "I've survived sales, purchases, hurricanes, and locusts," he said. But not Waukesha, evidently.

Best wishes to Powell and the staff, many of whom I've worked with as a freelance contributor. It's a good group. 

-Paul Raeburn


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