In the 1984 mockumentary, This is Spinal Tap, there’s a scene where the band explains the curious fact that their drummers keep dying (including one by spontaneous combustion). At times, I’ve started to feel the same way about editors of The American Philatelist. Fortunately, none of them spontaneously combusted, but it may have felt that way for one or two of them.
The most important lesson I have learned over the past six years is that Bellefonte isn’t for everyone. The American Philatelist is the universal member benefit; 98 percent of our members state they read the magazine regularly. That makes the editor one of the most influential leaders in the organization, and that is why I believe it is essential that the editor be present and an active part of the leadership team. At the same time, the journal has to reach an audience of 27,000 collectors of different interests and skills. If the journal is not measuring up, we get plenty of feedback.
With this issue, we say farewell to Gary Loew, our editor-in-chief since June 2020. My first introduction to Gary came all the way back in 2015 when I first joined the APS. As the “new guy,” I received advice far and wide. Gary very kindly took the time to write a long, thoughtful letter with some ideas that helped me better understand the world of philately and the APS. We met in person at AmeriStamp Expo in Atlanta and talked a bit more, and he proved to be a valuable resource to discuss topics over the years.
When Tom Horn retired as director of expertizing, Gary reached out and made a pitch to join the team, and in 2019, he came on board. In 2020, I asked Gary to take over as editor-in-chief. He candidly told me that he expected to return to some unfinished philatelic work soon, but the need to improve the journal and his commitment to the APS won out. We agreed to two goals: raise the journal’s quality and prepare a succession plan for his likely replacement, Susanna Mills.
In Gary’s time as editor, he achieved a fair amount. He created an editorial calendar to create a more deliberate plan for each issue of the journal. By doing so, Gary was able to communicate with the rest of the team so we could better draw resources and plan other APS activities to add to the articles in the magazine. Gary also tapped into the vast network of writers and researchers to build a worthwhile library of articles for future publication. He’ll talk more about his favorite issues or articles in his farewell column, but for me, it’s the introduction of the practical side of the hobby, like the Research issue in February 2020, the Stamp Buyers Guide (March 2020), and this issue focusing on catalogs. He certainly raised the bar moving ahead, but I have good news.
Even before Gary took over as editor, Susanna proved to be a valuable member of our team. The first time I met Susanna, she interviewed by video for a position in the education department from what seemed like a closet with the computer on her lap. In her second interview, she had to do a presentation in the Morse Building. It was raining hard – and those who have been here know that rain makes a lot of noise inside the building. So amid chaos, Susanna made a very thoughtful presentation on how to incorporate stamp collecting and education. While she didn’t get the job, she made an impression.
She joined the library staff to work in the collections, and when our social media position opened, she joined the staff full-time. While there, Susanna managed social media and expanded the role by writing content for the website. Her work forged our digital content model that has substantially increased web traffic over the past three years.
Since moving to the editorial department in 2019, Susanna has become an enterprising editor with intellectual curiosity – a trait you don’t see in management nearly enough. When Gary became editor, he looked to Susanna not as an employee, but as a partner. She worked with writers to broaden the appeal of articles, even on the most specialized subject. I got feedback from seasoned writers sharing how much they enjoyed working with Susanna and, on more than one occasion, was told, “you had better keep her around!” So I am doing my best to make sure we do.
Her first choice to take on her role is a familiar face in Jeff Stage. Jeff came to the APS staff in 2015 in the editorial office and served as an editorial associate for three years. Unfortunately, home called Jeff back, and he left the APS to return to Syracuse. However, a silver lining of the pandemic is just how much more comfortable our hobby has become with technology. Thanks to that, Jeff can return to our staff, and we are happy to have him back.
I am grateful for Gary’s leadership here at the APS, and while he is leaving the staff, he remains an enthusiastic and unapologetic advocate for the APS and the hobby. Gary’s sage counsel will be just an email away. We can say goodbye knowing that because of his work, The American Philatelist is in excellent hands with Susanna, an editor who will be a force in the hobby for a long time to come.