A magazine article is not a book

Posted by Bruce Canfield

After reading the above, you’re probably thinking “duh, that’s obvious.” Well, maybe not. I am prompted to make this comment after reading yet another letter from a reader of an article of mine in American Rifleman magazine. While there have been more than a few on previous articles, the last letter of this type was forwarded to me by the NRA staff regarding an article I wrote a few months ago about the Ithaca Model 37 military shotgun. To quote the first paragraph of the letter…”As always, I enjoyed the history and information in the May Rifleman article ‘Ithaca Earns Its Stripes.” However, I was disappointed that there was no mention of the Mossberg 500 which, I believe, also has as long and colorful military history.” The gentleman then went on the give some information on a Mossberg shotgun he owns that he believes is a military variant (although it isn’t).

After the letter was forwarded to me, I decided to answer the missive with the following reply:Thank you for your recent letter regarding your Mossberg shotgun. I’m sorry you were ‘disappointed’ that my article in the May, 2015 issue of American Rifleman about the Ithaca Model 37 shotgun didn’t mention the Mossberg guns. The reason the Mossberg wasn’t mentioned is the same reason the Winchester, Remington, Stevens and Savage U.S. military shotguns weren’t mentioned; the article was solely on the Ithaca Model 37.” I then went on to mention that my latest book on the subject gives a lot of information on the Mossberg (and all the other) U.S. military shotguns.

Am I missing something here? I can understand if a reader thinks an article is too long, too short, full of misinformation or simply boring, but for the life of me, I can’t understand why someone would complain that it didn’t discuss a subject unrelated to the topic of the article. As I’ve mentioned before, a big challenge in writing magazine articles is the very tight inherent space constraints. A few extra paragraphs, or even pages, is no big deal in a book. However, even a few extra words in a magazine article will result in the editor chopping part of it off. This can be a problem because editors often delete stuff that is important to the overall context of the piece.

It just occurred to me that I recently read an article in Car & Driver about the new Ford Mustang. I think I’ll sit down and send the magazine a letter that I am disappointed that the history of the Chevrolet Corvette was completely left out of the article. Jeez, can’t these people get anything right?

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