Off the Page, with Outdoor Canada editor Patrick Walsh

Off the Page (back after a summer hiatus) is an exclusive series produced by the NMAF that reaches out to former National Magazine Award winners to find out what their awards have meant to them and what they’re up to now. Off the Page will appear each Thursday on the Magazine Awards blog during the fall of 2012. This week we catch up with National Magazine Award-winning editor Patrick Walsh of Outdoor Canada magazine.

NMAF: In the last 10 years, Outdoor Canada has been nominated for 52 National Magazine Awards—and won 11—with particular success in the categories that reward the packaging of collaborative editorial content to instruct, inform and stimulate your readers. Okay, so what’s the secret to a successful editorial package?

Patrick Walsh:  Pacing. We strive to create an editorial package that contains an even, thematically linked mix of quick, snappy items, short articles and longer features. And within that mix, we’ll include info-packed service and how-to pieces, as well as engaging narratives.

You don’t want the package to be too weighed down with just one element. The same applies to the visuals—we want a good mix of graphics, illustrations and photography.

The key is to evenly distribute all these disparate elements throughout the package, such that the reader enjoys a seamless, entertaining reading experience. It’s like designing and assembling a puzzle—it will all fall together properly if you’ve planned ahead, visualized the end product, and created all the right pieces.

NMAF: What is the significance for you, as an editor, to win a National Magazine Award and see your staff, freelance writers and photographers recognized for their work? And what does this success convey to your readers?

Patrick Walsh: I don’t want to overstate the significance of such recognition, as some might argue that true success should be gauged by the likes of subscription renewals, newsstand sales and advertisement insertion orders.

However, it is immensely gratifying, on a professional level, when our team and contributors earn a National Magazine Award, or simply garner a nomination for that matter. It’s yet another measurement of how well we are serving our audience, based on the criteria for magazine excellence as determined by our industry peers.

We are not creating the best content possible to win awards, mind you—we’re doing it for our readers, and I like to think they appreciate that.

NMAF: Which is more challenging: Editing a successful hunting and fishing magazine, or reeling in a seven-foot, seven-inch sturgeon in the Fraser River? And what does one teach you about the other?

Patrick Walsh: After I beached that 250-pound sturgeon, I thought, Well, I’ll never do that again. I have a bad back, you see, and by the time the 26-minute fight was over, my lower back was on fire. But actually catching it wasn’t a huge challenge.

It’s a crapshoot, really. My fishing buddy and I simply took turns grabbing the first rod that got a hit, and with this particular fish, it just happened to be my turn to set the hook. Then all you have to do is keep tension on the barbless hook and hang on, reeling in line when you get the chance. The credit really goes to our guide, who put us on the fish in the first place.

But when it comes to editing a magazine, it’s all up to you, and your team, to get the job done—from start to finish. That’s decidedly far more challenging. If there’s a shared lesson to be learned from either pursuit, it’s to be persistent and do your best. Then, success will eventually come your way.

NMAF: Thanks Patrick! Keep up the good work.

Check out some samples of Outdoor Canada‘s National Magazine Award-winning work:
75 Whitetail Essentials” (Silver, How-To, 2011)
The Ultimate Danger Guide” (HM, Editorial Package, 2010)
Visit. Hunt. Stay.” (HM, Single Service Article Package, 2010)
Ultimate Skills Guide” (Gold, How-To, 2009)
The Best of Living off the Land” (Gold, Service: Lifestyle, 2008)

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