21 February 2006 by Published in: Civil War books and authors 3 comments

Gettysburg Magazine was Bob Younger’s baby. He started it, and he made the rules. Bob believed that the honor of being published in his magazine should be reward enough; if you wanted to be paid you had to ask for it. Those checks would come, but I always got the sense I was imposing on him to even ask. However, I have always insisted on being paid simply because of the principle of the thing.

One of Bob’s primary rules was no advertising. If you look at an issue of the magazine, you will find nary a single advertisement. This meant that either (a) the issue had to be paid for in full by subscription and bookstore sales or (b) it lost money regularly. Mix in Bob’s irascible nature and the fact that there was no national distributor, and it’s no surprise that this magazine was never a moneymaker for Morningside. Bob once told me that he and his wife Mary regularly had to subsidize the thing.

Also, Bob alienated enough of his authors that people stopped writing for him. I certainly did. When he decided that I was the enemy because we couldn’t get a bank to finance the deal, that was the end of my efforts to write for him, even though I have had lots of ideas of things that would have made for good articles for the magazine. I am far from alone in this. Consequently, in the past several years, the overall quality of the articles that have been published in the magazine has dropped significantly. For one good example, one of the licensed battlefield guides has propounded a bizarre theory that because the monument to the 5th New York Cavalry was moved, the rest of the monuments to Farnsworth’s brigade also were going to be moved. This person, in fact, contended that the veterans had been PROMISED that their monuments would be moved. The problem with this is that it was entirely and completely fabricated. There is no footnote for this proposition; there can’t be one–the records of the Gettysburg Battlefield Monument Association do not reflect any such thing. Yet, this nonsense crept through and was published.

Now, I’m all for theories that push the envelope. However, my support for and tolerance of these theories ends when they depend on material that is completely and totally fabricated. Had someone bothered to read this festering pile of garbage and hold it to the sorts of standards that marked the early years of the magazine, it never would have been published and put out there to intentionally mislead the public, as the author has set out to do. There is no quality control or consistency, and I have heard this complaint many, many times from many people.

This magazine has offered a great deal, and was once great. It can be great again. While Bob Younger’s passing was a tragedy, it nevertheless offers an opportunity to rejuvenate the magazine and make it great again now that it’s no longer under his thumb. With him gone, I would be willing to write for it again. Let’s hope that whoever is now in charge recognizes this opportunity and seizes it and does something good with it. Time will tell.

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Comments

  1. David Woodbury
    Wed 22nd Feb 2006 at 5:44 am

    Eric,

    I thought the quality of the writing in Gettysburg Magazine was always a mixed bag, then and now, but generally of good quality. The lack of ads was one of the magazine’s charms. Bob could have made the publication into a money-making venture, with ads, and wider distribution, but that was never the objective, or so it seemed to me. The subject matter was a passion of his, and I think he was proud and pleased to do it on its own merits.

    With all due respect, it sounds a bit harsh to say his recent death offers an “opportunity” for someone to invite you and other alienated authors to begin revitalizing his magazine. He did an amazing and generous thing with that publication, including giving a lot of amateur historians a serial outlet for their own serious research. Bob was famous for rubbing people the wrong way — even customers — and you’ve related your own sour business dealings in more than one post. But he’s not been long in the grave, and where Civil War publishing is concerned there’s still more to celebrate than to denigrate with Morningside.

    Dave W.

  2. Wed 22nd Feb 2006 at 10:13 am

    Dave,

    I don’t disagree. My only point is that there is now an opportunity for those he did alienate to return to the fold. Nothing more, nothing less.

    Eric

  3. Thu 23rd Feb 2006 at 12:51 pm

    That is basically the black and white of it – it does sound harsh, but it’s business.
    Eric and I have discussed this many times and with others – many of the articles that have showed up in the past 3 years or so have been blatant stinkers. I don’t mean just speculative or simply revisionist stuff, but as Eric mentioned… clear intent to deceive. The one he spoke of was the Farnsworth’s Charge article that appeared last year. There was another recently, on Barlow’s advance on July 1. The author was informed of accounts he intended to use, which were actually referring to another day (June 30) as well as primary source material that contradicted his conclusions. He chose, instead, to go with the article and IGNORE anything and everything that contradicted him. That’s not history, and it’s certainly not in tune with what Gettysburg Magazine used to be.
    GM used to be an incredible source – often quoted by many book and magazine authors, and the scholarship was impeccable. Many of the authors took decades to put the article together. They were mostly groundbreaking, and their sources invariably checked out. The sources were often incredibly obscure.
    That has fallen by the wayside. Eric has a point – if the magazine continues (and I hope it will) let’s hope that the new owners have a good editorial board that will weed out the garbage that has been in it lately. It’s one thing to make mistakes or misinterpret sources, but to use the magazine to practice deception and deceit in order to further your own predetermined agenda is absolutely inexcusable.

    J.D.

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