Archive for June, 2011

The End of an Era

Friday, June 3rd, 2011

Well, it’s been exactly six months since I’ve heard from Kent Kunitsugu.  After eight years of being in nearly every issue – fifty-three stories – I think it’s fair to say I no longer write for Sport Rider magazine.

It was a cool gig while it lasted.

I’m proud of what I accomplished.  From the very beginning I sought to illuminate those motorcycling issues that I thought were important.  To describe the lessons, the joys, the often subtle nuances, that slowly presented themselves to me over three decades and hundreds of thousands of miles.  To share the bag of talismans I had been given.

More than anything, I tried to convey the magic – what it was like to actually be in the seat… running fast through nice country on a good bike on a fine road.  To wield well that incredible vehicle that so many of us love so passionately.

I’m grateful to Kent.  First for personally saving Sport Rider twice – initially in the late nineties when the original staff at the magazine was fired following an in-house imbroglio; and then a decade later after Andrew had his horrific crash up on the Angeles Crest.  In both cases Kent was called upon to put together nearly the entire magazine by himself, over many issues and for long spans of time – a herculean task that too few people today appreciate.

And then, when I came along in the summer of 2002, for being open-minded about things.  Previously, the Benchracing column had been reserved for guest authors – one-hit wonders who would drop a story and then be gone.  Despite that well-entrenched let’s-hear-from-lots-of-different-people-with-lots-of-different-perspectives formula, Kent didn’t hesitate in shaking things up – allowing me to begin dropping my byline there in the back of the magazine issue after issue.  With only a handful of exceptions, for those eight years the Benchracing column became the ‘Jeff Hughes’ space.

Not only that, Kent gave me room.  Most regular columns in most magazines are on the order of 800-900 words and run little more than a page.  Benchracing was no exception.  When, after my first two submissions, I asked for more, Kent didn’t hesitate.  He allowed me to wax loquacious with 1500 and 2000 and even a couple of 2500 word pieces.  To those who know the magazine business, and how precious editorial content  is, that was a rare gift.

I hope I returned the trust that Kent gave me.  I think I did.  I always – save one I-somehow-forgot-the-date-and-was-a-day-late-miscue – made my deadlines.  I always figured  Kent had enough headaches putting together each issue without worrying whether his contributors were going to get their stuff in on time.  I always tried to act like the professional we’re all supposed to be.

More than anything, I tried to craft good words.  To create stories that were polished and error-free and ready to publish.  To provide, in the words of the old newspaper dictum, ‘clean copy.’

And so why did it end?

I really don’t have an answer.  Kent hasn’t offered an explanation and I’m not inclined to ask for one.  But given the very challenged state of magazines and newspapers today, I could surmise that Sport Rider is facing declining ad revenues even as they were finally able to add a third full-time staffer – Bradley Adams joined the magazine late last year.  Since the amount of editorial content a periodical can publish is directly driven by those ad revenues, Kent may simply not have any space left over after he and Andrew and Brad have done their thing.

Just a guess.

Or maybe, as a friend of mine pondered in an email a few weeks ago… “Did Kent fire you? I  think he finally figured out you are a beer drinkin’, gun totin’, woman chasin,’ unPC, Harley rider!”

That might be it, after all.