Software comes in handy

While going through the Feedback section of the November 2008 Outdoors Unlimited I happened on Rich Patterson’s “Hand condition clouds future” letter, which prompts this e-mail.

I am not even a reasonably good hunt-and-pecker. But, I’ve been using Dragon NaturallySpeaking, a voice-recognition program, for more than 15 years. I’m writing this e-mail while sitting back, talking to my computer. I do a column, “The Outer Edge,” as fishing editor of Traveling Sportsman Magazine and another column, “Stu Apte on Fishing,” as field editor of Shallow Water Angler Magazine. Not only that, I recently completed my memoirs, “Of Wind and Tides” (136,000 words), all by talking to my computer via the Dragon. The latest version of the software can be purchased for $199.99. Cheap at three times the price. It will only take an hour of your time reading to your computer so that voice recognition fully understands how you pronounce various words.

Rich, don’t despair; treat yourself to a Dragon NaturallySpeaking Christmas present.

Stu Apte, Tavernier, Fla.

EIC rules too burdensome

Thanks for the kudos to the Outdoor Writers of Ohio for how their contest is run. It just so happens that organizing the contest (with a little help) is my responsibility for the next OWO conference. However, the OWO contest has been done the same way for who knows how long. I read your column (OU, October 2008) and had to write to say that I quit submitting to OWAA’s EIC in my second year of membership for the simple reason that it was a big pain in my ass.

Locating prior programs that met the subject criteria and making copies of radio programs was plain overly burdensome and just not worth the effort. This is not to mention that the award ceremony, due to the sheer number and volume, seemed like it lasted into the wee hours of the morning. The OWAA board should just wave the wand and implement what works rather then try and reinvent the wheel.

On another note, you should try and make our conference next May. OWO is rockin’ and rollin’ with new members and supporting members in case you haven’t checked in lately. All thanks to OWO’s new permanent conference and supporting member chair.

Chip Hart, Batavia, Ohio

Editors need to shape up

As I see by the November Outdoors Unlimited, you are looking for feedback. I am coming up on 20 years as a member and have reaped some great benefits from membership. I have been able to sell many stories through the information on the Outdoor Market page, which really made my membership worthwhile. Although I am not one of the bigger “feeders-at-the-big-magazine-trough-of-writing,” I have been able to “pick up an acorn” every once in awhile. I have also benefited from being a member by help from headquarters staff when some editor had a problem paying me, or would not send back unused material. (Yes, I had sent an SASE with the material.) I have also contacted fellow members with questions on several occasions and received immediate helpful feedback.

With these great “plus” factors being stated, yes, there are a few negatives. When I seek information through the listings on the Outdoor Market page, it is disappointing when those folks are looking for stories but don’t have the common courtesy to reply. A simple “not interested” reply would suffice.

Most of the editors give a format to follow in the idea presentation, query, writing spec or acceptance procedure, and either say “yes” or “can’t use” in a reasonable amount of time. On several occasions I have even had editors say “We can’t use this” but have steered me to other magazines which in the end could use it, and which paid better. (This is especially helpful when the story is time sensitive, so I don’t have to wait another full year before submitting elsewhere.)

Finally, several situations have occurred which have kind of “pulled my chain.” This is when editors have played the “non-communication game,” or “we like your stuff, will call you in a week,” and never get back after I send e-mails to see what is happening, and then an article in the craft improvement section of Outdoors Unlimited comes up with their name as the author.

Thanks for all your time and help.

Richard W. Peterson, Columbus Junction, Iowa

Go for the EIC overhaul

Just wanted to say that I completely agree with the president’s message in the October OU. I say go for the changes in the EIC Contest as you’ve outlined.

Chip Gross, Fredericktown, Ohio

EIC rules slight supporters

I just read Phil Bloom’s article in Outdoors Unlimited (October 2008) and agree the EIC needs an overhaul. The Sportsman Channel would be happy to sponsor a contest this coming year, too. But the real reason for my e-mail is to ask that the EIC include a contest for supporting groups, much like SEOPA does with its contest. I, too, would love to see a plaque on my wall for all the hard work we do daily in communicating to the universe about TSC. Unfortunately, there aren’t many “contests” for me to enter – and if there are, they want a $400 entry. (That’s hard to justify with tight budgets.)

— Michelle Scheuermann, The Sportsman Channel, New Berlin, Wis.

Level the EIC playing field

Years ago I was asked to chair one of the EIC contests – print media, fishing. I was apprehensive when I said “yes” because I was fearful of not finding judges. I contacted a mix of well-known national guys and even some local fisheries biologists. Only one person turned me down. Rules at that time specified no names on entries. Imagine my surprise to find bylines included on the entries of more than one high-profile, regular contest-winning member. I kicked those out and, hopefully, didn’t mess up because I was asked again a few years ago to chair a hunting/shooting contest. That time I respectfully declined.

Chairing a contest was a great experience and I appreciated the work of the other judges but, in my mind, there wasn’t a level playing field, even with missing bylines. Freelancers were disadvantaged because they generally don’t do artwork to support their stories and they generally don’t write titles and they generally don’t write cutlines. When we judge the “total package,” staff people have a marked advantage. I have no solution to this problem. The words would be more important if we judged only manuscripts.

I rarely enter contests. I’ve had, what I thought, were pretty good stories that were trashed by bad titles, misleading cutlines, typos and fuzzy photos. Anyway, I hope your committee can come up with something that works.

This summer I was local chair for the Federation of Fly Fishers International Fly Show and Conclave in Whitefish, Mont. The trade show, normally attracting around 70 exhibitors, had less than 20. Chalk it up to the economy. The rest of the show was fine. I suggested FFF drop the trade show at future Conclaves until they can prove a cost-benefit effectiveness for exhibitors. Maybe the contests should rest for a few years.

Phil, thanks for all the work you’re doing for OWAA. Fishfull Thinking …

Jerry Smalley, Columbia Falls, Mont.

‘Catch’ phrase is a killer

To add a bit of mirth to the “Hunting Semantics” issue (OU, October 2008), a local northern Michigan television station reported several times during their “Hook and Hunting” segment that at 6:20 a.m. they would present a hunter who “caught” a 14-point buck. He did not kill it, bag it, harvest it, take it down, but instead, he caught it.

Later that same week, the station advised that: “The (name of town) buck poll shows local hunters’ ‘catch’ for today.”

When putting together my annual archery and firearms statewide deer forecasts, I tend to use “harvest” when reporting Michigan Department of Natural Resources jargon. Another word the Michigan DNR employs when a commercial deer herd is stricken with bovine TB or chronic wasting disease is “depopulate.” Perhaps the DNR feels the general public does not realize what “depopulate” means. We are smarter than that!

Betty Sodders, Goetzville, Mich.

Broaden, refine EIC contests

I agree with Phil Bloom’s EIC column in the October Outdoors Unlimited. I read it after reading Page 18, where I discovered 12 of the 19 EIC categories were unsponsored.

I’ve been an OWAA member since 2003; I also joined the Association for Conservation Information that year. When ACI was having trouble getting items to auction at its conference last summer, I e-mailed a few company reps I knew and some I didn’t. In less than two weeks, we had about $2,000 worth of items ready to contribute.

I tell that story because it’s hard to believe that a few e-mails, some to people I don’t even know, could be so productive, yet 12 of 19 OWAA contest categories have no sponsors.

You asked for thoughts about the contest, so here goes. I’ve won an EIC award and NAGC and ACI awards, although sometimes it was hard to figure out which article fit which category.

Let’s come up with a list of categories – big game hunting, saltwater fishing, shooting, paddling and whatever we need – then match them with media (newspaper, magazine, video, audio). It’s very much what we do now, only refined. Let’s name the categories for what they are. I know the criticism – that’s too much, we’d never find sponsors or judges. And it would take all night to hand out awards.

Well, it’s not too much, and we don’t have to hand out awards. Why not put them in a PowerPoint to show during dinner instead of announcing every award? And why require sponsors to put up money? Why not let them give a fishing reel, shotgun or gift card instead?

Afterwards, post the winning entries on the Web site so we can read, hear and view award-winning material. Better yet, move the awards dinner to the first night so we can trade stories about winning material.

If OWAA is going to thrive, it’s going to have to look past the horizon and attract new blood. We need travel writers and cyclists and hunters and hikers and rock climbers and skiers and anglers and anybody else who writes or shoots video about the outdoors. We’re not going to attract people who could bring life to this organization if there’s no payoff. We need all the outdoors enthusiasts we can get.

Jeff Williams, Little Rock, Ark.


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