Last month, Weider History Group announced that Dana Shoaf was taking over the helms of both Civil War Times and America’s Civil War. I had a chance to virtually sit down with Dana and ask him some questions about his new responsibilities and about the direction in which the magazines would be moving.
BR: What led to the decision to name you as Executive Director of Weider History Group’s Civil War publications and allow you to oversee both CWT and ACW?
DS: The biggest reason was to coordinate between the two magazines, making sure they were not going over the same ground, using the same art, etc. Also, we want to make the magazines more different than they now are. It was thought that would be easier to do if one person was keeping a close eye on both.
BR: Will the two magazines remain separate?
DS: Yes. There are no plans to merge them.
BR: What are the big challenges you’ll be facing?
DS: For me, the biggest challenge is to keep organized; keep all my manuscripts straight and to try and be prompt in responding to email and author queries. I struggle with this, I admit, but I’m working to get better at it. Also, it’s a pretty big challenge to keep printing fresh material about the Civil War in the magazines. I actually cruise the blogs out there—some are really good while some are just bloviation. From the good blogs, I’ve picked up some good topics that have come out of discussions. I can also tell who can write and who can’t by reading blog entries. You’re okay, Harry, you can write. And you are a Steelers and Pirates fan like me. You’re okay.
In a larger sense, this is the biggest challenge—our readership is getting older, and we need to attract younger readers for these magazines to survive. The upcoming sesquicentennial will raise some interest that we hope to capitalize on. I have to admit though, every time I despair that young people don’t care about history or the Civil War, I meet some youngster who is all into it, and that gives me hope.
BR: Conversely, what are the big opportunities?
DS: I think by coordinating these magazines, and making them different in tone, we can reach a very wide Civil War audience. We also want to amp up our web presence. This will take a little while though, as we are focusing on the magazines right now. One thing that’s exciting is that our newsstand sales are up, so some bookstores are talking with us about increasing our visibility in their stores. I think that’s great—not only because the increased sales mean more revenue—but also because potentially more people can get turned on to the Civil War. I really believe the overarching mission of mine is to provide great Civil War history for the masses.
BR: What about CWT going to 6 issues/year (from 10/year)? What will the publication schedule be for the two magazines?
DS: They alternate every other month. Civil War Times is: June, August, October, December, February and April. America’s Civil War is: July, September, November, January, March, May.
BR: Are there any other changes in the works (re: staffing, layouts, focus, features)?
DS: As you can see by the publishing schedule, I’m basically overseeing a monthly magazine. We do plan to hire one more person to work on America’s Civil War. Each magazine will have a Managing Editor, Senior Editor, Art Director and Picture Editor. Both magazines will share one Copy Editor. That may seem like a lot of people, but it’s basically a bare bones staff for a monthly magazine. As far as layout changes, there is a big one in the works for CWT. I don’t want to say anymore right now, but if it comes off, I will be be very happy and so will the readers, I’m sure.
Oh yeah, another change—I’m getting grayer by the minute. My hair and beard will be as gray as Marse Robert’s before too long!