Duke's Den – Courtship Of Editors
Meet the press!
In April I passed my eighth year working as Ed-in-Chief of the online moto publication you’re perusing, and I’d like to thank you for your attention to the thousands of articles MO has published since then. Lots of hard work has gone on behind the scenes to deliver all the latest news and reviews of motorcycles at a level of quality that puts us ahead of anything that can be found on the web. Hell, with the current roster of amazingly versatile and talented editors, I’d rank us up there with the best moto content to be found anywhere, let alone the internet. I’m blessed with my exceptional crew. So are you.
Looked at from afar, motojournalism might seem to be a cushy gig, but it requires a unique set of aptitudes and talents that few people have. Being a skilled rider is a prerequisite, as manufacturers tend to dislike people crashing their bikes, but it gets more complicated from there. Having a journalism or English degree sorts the wheat from the chaff, as does having experience on a vast variety of motorcycles and riding environments. An understanding of mechanical systems is important, as is comprehension of chassis geometry. A good candidate will be a decent photographer, and also good with video, both behind and in front of the camera. It will be an advantage to be able to stay up all night while racing to be first to complete a review of a hot new bike, and there will be times when work will cut into weekends. Finally, a candidate should be prepared to be paid less than journalism for non-enthusiast media outlets.
A set of diverse and wide-ranging qualities like those listed above isn’t easy to find, so motojournalism tends to be an incestuous business. As such, it shouldn’t be surprising to learn that MO’s staff editors have had a deep background of experience at other moto pubs, and I had gotten to know them all quite well during various media events before I was in a position to hire them.
Allow me to also give shout-outs to a couple of former MO staffers that were integral to the Duke era of Motorcycle.com. Alfonse Palaima spent many years as MO’s chief image guy long before I joined the masthead, plus several years working alongside me bagging millions of photos and shooting/producing videos. Fonzie has since gone on to a successful freelance career. Another huge part of MO, both before and after my arrival, was Pete Brissette, who for several years was my go-to editor for almost everything. He eventually moved out of the journalism business to a career better suited to his family life.
Of the editors on staff, it’s Dennis Chung who’s been with me longest. Dennis was hired by MO’s parent company, VerticalScope, in August 2007, and by 2008 he was filling important roles on MO’s back end by laying out our articles and posting news stories. DC has posted more news than anyone else ever on MO, and he does hundreds of other necessary tasks that, unfortunately for him, don’t get a byline – for example, take a look at the bespoke dyno charts that accompany every comparison test so you readers have graphic representation of how different engines compare in their power production.
Dennis says the work he’s most proud of is when he discovers unannounced patent and design filings and then sees other sites posting about them days after we did. I’m also proud of DC’s series about becoming a new motorcycle rider, which can be found in his story about becoming a motorcycle owner. DC is also responsible for scouring the web in search of the most entertaining motorcycle videos in our Weekend Awesome feature on Saturdays.
Tom Roderick was the first editor I was able to bring into the MO fold, assigning freelance work stretching back to 2008. I first met T-Rod back in 2004 when he was Senior Editor for Dealer News, an industry trade magazine, and we had several things in common besides an intense interest in motorcycles. We both had owned Honda CB400Fs (Tom still does), we both smoked Camel Light cigs (Tom still sorta does), and we share a similar sense of humor and enjoy making each other laugh.
Tom has developed into an indispensable asset for MO since he joined us full time in 2011. There is no one else on staff who is as adept at such a wide variety of riding: He’s quick and predictable on a racetrack, he’s well versed in cruiser testing, and he’s better than the rest of us at manhandling a big adventure bike off-road. And, critically for the videos necessary for contemporary motorcycle reviews, Tom is excellent on camera. Less obvious but no less important is T-Rod’s organizational skills that help keep our tasks sorted and on schedule.
Troy Siahaan was the next editor to become indoctrinated into the MO fold under my wing, freelancing first in 2010 before becoming a full-time staffer early in 2011. The man we call Trizzle has an oddly divergent motojourno background. The former racer spent time at the touring-oriented Rider magazine before his tenure at Sport Rider. Trizzle gets to ride every kind of bike as a MO staffer and has an appreciation for each genre.
Troy often helms our sportbike shootouts, and he’s also become our e-bike specialist. In addition, he’s kept busy posting the latest moto news, and he’s also the editor behind our Sunday feature, Church of MO, in which we take a look back in time to some of the best pieces in MO’s 20-plus-year archive. The last of our testing crew yet to enter his 40s, Troy helps us maintain a connection with a younger demographic.
Sean Alexander was at MO in the dark ages of the internet, beginning in 2002, and that put he and I in competition with each other to see who would be more successful at building the best motorcycle e-zine in the country. When he left MO in 2006 in favor of more lucrative work in the PR field, I lied to myself and said it was because I had broken him down.
Then a funny little thing happened in 2013, when Verticalscope hired Sean as Editorial Director for all of VerticalScope’s powersports publications, including Motorcycle.com. Dirty and I had joined forces, and, with his leadership and assistance, MO has become, in my opinion, the leading motorcycle publication on the web. The lead photo of this article shows us debating editorial directions.
I’ve known Evans Brasfield since my first gig at a California motorcycle publication in 1997 when I was Ass. Ed. at Motorcyclist and was enlisted by Sport Rider to be a guest tester, as was Evans, in a sport-touring shootout. We had run into each other at various media functions over the years when the former racer was on staff at Motorcycle Cruiser and SR, and I was proud to see him author a couple of books while exploring a freelance career. I used him a few times as a photographer when I worked at a competitor’s website.
Evans and I bumped into each other again in 2013 at another media event. While catching up about our families and careers, Evans wondered if his skills might fit in nicely at MO. Hmm, an expert on cruisers who also knows the ins and outs of sportbikes and their mechanical elements would be a real asset. And when that person is also a nice family man and a pro-level shooter, Evans proved to be an ideal addition to the MO masthead in 2014.
Anyone who’s been a moto enthusiast is familiar with John Burns, who I believe is one of the best scribes to ever write about motorcycles. I first read JB’s articles in the early 1990s, and he quickly became my favorite motojourno. When I was given an office in the Petersen Publishing building next to John, it was like moving in next to the journalism equivalent of Kenny Roberts. Burnsie easily outlasted me at Motorcyclist but had a multi-year falling out with the same editor who turfed me.
In a strange-but-true tale, JB has had a long association with MO, freelancing as far back as 2001 before moving on a long stint at Cycle World. Then, in 2014, Burnsie was no longer a good fit at the old print publication and became a free agent. Although there wasn’t really any room in MO’s budget for another editor, the lure of JB’s greatness made him irresistible. I consider it a privilege to be his editor even if he sometimes makes it challenging.
Sometimes with the stress of new challenges and always-looming deadlines, praise for my crew isn’t as effusive as they deserve. A name will be misspelled or a feature might be misstated. A due date will be missed or a detail might be overlooked. These things make my blood boil, often to the point where I can’t see the forest for the trees.
This missive is an attempt to acknowledge the multitudinous benefits each member of the MO crew delivers to create the best place to read about – and see and hear – motorcycles. It’s like Thanksgiving in June. Thanks, guys, for all that you do to make MO as indispensable to our readers as you are to me!
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