Metamorphosis in the gun media
by Joseph P. Tartaro
I’ve got some bad news, and some good news. It’s all about change. We all know that nothing is so constant in life as change, and change has been forced upon the newspaper of the gun community that you have come to rely upon for so many years.
First, the bad news!
The last issue of The New Gun Week dated Dec. 1, 2011 has been printed and sent out. With the publication and mailing of this issue of Gun Week, a 45-year adventure in publishing for the firearms community will take a new direction and new name.
The good news is the spirit and purposes of Gun Week, launched in 1966 to provide reliable, weekly news for the family of firearms owners, activists and the gun industry, will live on in multiple forms. The vital information so necessary to preserving and expanding the right to keep and bear arms that always has been a Gun Week tradition will continue, and take new shapes that are sustainable in a changing media world.
Before I report on how that tradition will continue, and what it means to our subscribers, let me recap some ancient and recent history. Gun Week has been a labor of love and individual dedication throughout its history, but it was never a money-maker for any of its three publishing companies. Gun Week was started by John Amos of Amos Press, who saw a desperate need for a weekly newspaper that would print the truth about guns and gunowners at the absolute height of the anti-gun frenzy that gripped the nation in the 1960s, when almost all newspapers, magazines and broadcast media had already thrown their support behind the gun grabbers.
The fledgling Gun Week, under its first permanent editor, the late Neal Knox, became a powerful resource and voice for gunowners, gun manufacturers and gun rights activists. But with passage of the Gun Control Act of 1968, pages of classified and mail order ads disappeared from the weekly issues. GCA ’68 delivered a near fatal blow to the economic success of the only national weekly gun newspaper.
Knox was replaced as editor by another true believer journalist, the late James Schneider, who guided Gun Week through many troubled years for the gun community during much of the 1970s. During that period Gun Week played a key role not only on Capitol Hill but within the gun community itself. The little newspaper proved a powerful voice for NRA members and activists who wanted to reshape the nation’s largest hobby gun organization into a powerful political force.
The 1970s also brought inflation that affectinged paper costs as well as mailing costs.
When Hawkeye Publishing, a company created by a group of devout gun-rights activists, acquired Gun Week in late 1979, I became Gun Week’s editor, and was told by Amos Press executives that the publication had never made the same kind of profits as its other periodicals, despite its powerful impact on the gun rights community. If Hawkeye had not acquired Gun Week, he said, Amos had been prepared to cease its publication.
So it wasn’t entirely a surprise when Gun Week had to be rescued by the Second Amendment Foundation in March 1985 with the idea that the non-profit foundation would support the newspaper as fulfillment of its charter to serve the entire gun community. Under Foundation ownership, I continued as editor.
However, production costs continued to escalate, especially postage. Some readers will recall how Gun Week had to be cut from a weekly: first to three times a month in 1996, and then to twice a month in 2007. The increasing cost of postage and necessary increases in subscription prices were not the only threat to the publication. The advent of the Internet and free access to news and commentary changed the reading habits of a nation and divided us between those who still like to hold the written page and those, mostly younger generations, who want to access information instantly at the click of a buttonseemingly without cost.
Perhaps the ultimate blow to the future of the bi-weekly print edition of Gun Week was the recession that began in 2008. While costs escalated, a continuing sour economy reduced household incomes, thereby reducing newsstand sales as well as the number of paid subscribers for newspapers and magazines all across the country. Many proud old newspapers silenced their presses and laid off staff months ago. In some markets, newspapers merged, and surviving newspapers still struggle with how to compete in the Internet age.
With it now costing twice as much to mail a copy of Gun Week as it does to produce and print it, it became economically necessary to make changes. Postage costs were not the only threat to delivery as the US Postal Service considers all manner of service cuts plus reductions in staffing and post office facilities.
The trustees of the Second Amendment Foundation saw no reason to be wasteful with the donations of our supporters in order to prop up a news vehicle that could no longer live up to the name of a weekly, or even a bi-weekly. A more vigorous legal action agenda in defense of the Second Amendment seemed a wiser investment.
So here is what will happen. The Second Amendment Foundation will create a new monthly magazine called TheGunMag.com, and a new website of the same name, simultaneously in January 2012. However, the content will not be exactly the same.
This dual medium approach will enable us to continue to publish and deliver all of the news in a monthly magazine format, under production deadlines that are much shorter and speedier than all other monthly magazines. However, TheGunMag.com website will enable us to be more up to date on the news side, with firearms news reports summarized by the week and posted weekly in an abbreviated form. Not all content will be the same.
TheGunMag.com print and online editions will continue to deliver the news as fast as both processes will allow. The monthly print edition will include most of the same features and writers you relied on Gun Week to deliver, but it will not be possible to publish everything that is in the print edition on the website. However, TheGunMag.com will enable us to be more up to date on the news side, with news reports summarized by the week and posted weekly in abbreviated form on TheGunMag.com website.
Gun Week subscribers of record will receive the premier print edition of TheGunMag.com monthly beginning with the January 2012 issue toward the end of December, and each month after that, according to an equitable, automatic conversion schedule. The Second Amendment Foundation will continue to deliver the new monthly magazine to existing Gun Week subscribers on an equitable, automatic conversion schedule. Subscriber address labels on the first issue of TheGunMag.com monthly print edition will be recoded to reflect the new expiration date for the magazine. Present subscribers don’t need to do anything except update address changes.
TheGunMag.com will receive a new launch for newsstand sales at the rate of $3.95 US ($5.95 in Canada) per copy, with subscription prices of $25 for one year (12 issues) and $45 for two years (24 issues). Click to subscribe.
The Second Amendment Foundation remains committed to fulfilling its mission as an informational and educational resource for gunowners while pursuing an accelerated program of legal action on behalf of all gunowners’ rights.
We would not be able close out the colorful history of a gallant publication without expressing our thanks to our loyal subscribers and to our advertisers.
As always the Foundation will guarantee your satisfaction.