Media Interview with Don Currie, editor of Scotland Outdoors
Who reads Scotland Outdoors?
It’s read by people who love Scotland, its endless possibilities for enjoying the outdoors, and its phenomenal wildlife.
What subjects do you cover? What stories are you most interested in covering?
We cover outdoor activities from the gentle (walking) to the terrifying (free solo rock climbing). There are far too many to name them all, but here are some of those we’ve covered in the past year: ski touring, snowboarding, surfing, openwater swimming, whitewater sledging, sea kayaking, canoeing, surfing, coasteering, mountain biking, cyclocross, road biking, bouldering, scrambling, trail-riding on horseback, road running, triathlons and winter hill-walking. The Scottish countryside is a priceless resource as well as a playground, and nature conservation is high on our agenda, too. Recently we have run features on bats, barnacle geese, cuckoos, shellfish, forest regeneration, the health of Scotland’s lochs and ways in which birds and animals survive the winter.
What makes you different from the other outlets in your sector?
We recognise that active people often enjoy several outdoor pursuits, which is why we cover a broad range. Other magazines focus only on one, such as cycling or walking. We also differ in concentrating exclusively on Scotland. Other outdoor titles are UK-wide and thus less relevant than we are to readers living in Scotland. Having said that, we have plenty of readers outwith Scotland who share our love of the country.
Do you produce a features list?
We don’t circulate a fixed, advance list because flexibility is vital when planning ahead. If anyone wants a rough idea of what we are likely to have coming up, they are very welcome to get in touch.
You’ve just increased the title’s frequency from quarterly to bimonthly – what has triggered this change?
It’s mainly because there’s such a wealth of great subjects out there, and now we can do it more justice.
Any other projects/wishes for the future of the magazine?
We are transforming our website, www.scotoutdoors.com, into an essential resource for outdoors enthusiasts. On it, we’ve introduced a constantly updated events guide and for the first time are running original features that complement those in the printed magazine. This month we’ve had a fantastic response to our first film, made specially for the site by Ben Dolphin, a loyal reader who is a countryside ranger, hillwalker and cyclist. He made a fascinating video report on his first overnight stay in a mountain bothy, and the response has been superb. We hope to do more of this. We’re also becoming more and more active on Facebook and Twitter, and have a fast-growing following on both. As I write, we have about 2,000 likes on Facebook and well over 5,000 followers on Twitter, but just as important as the numbers is the fact that these people interact with us a lot, and their opinions are vital.
Do you pay for contributions from freelance journalists?
Yes, we often do. In some cases, though, contributors are willing to write, or provide a picture, without a fee if they have a book, project, charity or cause to promote. Each case is different.
Do you like freelance journalists to get in touch with you directly to pitch ideas? And if so, how?
Yes, preferably by email to firstname.lastname@example.org, with three or four sentences summing up the proposed feature and saying whether photographs can be provided as well. Also, plenty of notice – there’s no point pitching an idea to a bimonthly if it’s pegged to an event happening next week.
Name the three most important attributes that make a freelance journalist stand out for you and would make you use them again?
1. Realisation that they need to look at the magazine and offer something suitable. For instance, we don’t cover shooting and fishing, yet people still pitch features on those subjects.
2. Understanding of the need for some kind of angle, preferably topical. It’s no good saying ‘would you like a feature on the Cairngorms, which are really nice?’
3. Understanding of the importance of pictures. I don’t expect a writer to be a photographer, but some help in sourcing suitable images can be valuable, even if it’s just relevant contact numbers.
Are you interested in press releases and, if so, how do you prefer to receive them?
Yes, by email and with suitable high-res images, which massively increase the chance of the release being used.
Do you have a PR pet hate?
Probably excessive frequency. If they send something out every day it tends to be routinely deleted.
What are your editorial duties/responsibilities at the outlet (e.g. commissioning, subbing, features, interviewing) and what interests you most about your job?
All the above are part of my job. What appeals to me most about Scotland Outdoors is it’s so positive. Most of its features are about activities that are enjoyable, interesting and satisfying. Awareness of their importance for our health and wellbeing is growing, so it’s great to be playing a small part in that.
Where have you worked previously and what led to you becoming editor for Scotland Outdoors?
On every kind of newspaper – local weekly, regional morning, evening, national daily, national Sunday – and on all sorts of periodicals from consumer to professional to staff and members’ magazines. The publishing company that employs me, CMYK, bought the title, having previously designed it. Being a keen walker, runner, cyclist, swimmer and birdwatcher I was delighted to find myself an obvious candidate.
Do you tweet? Why?
Yes, along with some of my colleagues. It’s a superb way of engaging with readers and potential readers.
Favourite holiday destination?
I honestly couldn’t single out one, but Skye, Islay and Lewis/Harris all take some beating.
Scotland Outdoors can be found on Twitter @ScotOutdoors.