I was a fan of Harris Publications long before I began writing for them. I’d been a subscriber to New Pioneer and also snatched up American Frontiersman whenever it hit the stands. My introduction to the staff, though, came through my involvement with Panteao Productions. I’m one of the instructors for their Make Ready to Survive DVD series. While we were in Florida filming my segments, Panteao’s owner, Fernando Coelho, and I spent some time talking about the survival/prepper industry as a whole. He mentioned that Harris Publications, a company with whom he had a longstanding relationship, was planning a new magazine devoted to emergency preparedness. He gave me some contact info and suggested I reach out to them once we returned to civilization.
A short time later, I met via email a woman who would become one of my all-time favorite editors, Cara Donaldson. We traded a few messages about how Harris operated with respect to freelance writers as well as discussed a few potential article topics. She sent me a sample issue of Survivor’s Edge magazine so I could get a feel for the tone of the publication. I was admittedly eager to sell an article to them and pitched several ideas. I learned early on in my writing career that the first sale is always the hardest. Once you’ve placed the first article (on time and well written), future assignments can come easy.
Over the next couple of years, I placed several articles with Survivor’s Edge. Pitching articles to Cara went from me writing up a very detailed query, complete with reference links and such, to just sending her an email saying, “Hey, how about I do a review of this new lantern?”
Survivor’s Edge was an excellent publication. It had a great mix of actionable content, solid information, and reviews of products that real people could actually afford. The content was largely written by people whom I know personally to be very knowledgeable in their fields.
It was announced on April 29, 2016, that the company was shutting down. By all accounts, this took most people, including employees, by surprise. Harris had been in business since 1977 and during that time had published somewhere around 75 different magazines. They catered to niche markets, from decorating (Storage Solutions, Flea Market Style) to tactical (Ballistic, Combat Handguns) to outdoor living (New Pioneer, American Frontiersman).
I was a big fan of both New Pioneer and American Frontiersman. NP catered to those who were genuinely interested in homesteading and related pursuits. They’d profile families who were out there doing it. Alternative energy, gardening, animal husbandry, DIY projects, all that and more were included between the front and back covers of the magazine.
American Frontiersman was just plain fun, as far as I was concerned. I’ve long been fascinated by the whole mountain man lifestyle. In AF, you could learn how to cook using a reflector oven, how to properly preserve a rabbit skin, how to use a compass, and so much more. There were often profiles of historical mountain men and long hunters, too, and I’m a sucker for history.
I was very saddened by the news of Harris closing up shop, and not just because I was writing for Survivor’s Edge. I’m admittedly rather old school when it comes to reading and much prefer actual hard copy magazines and books over electronic editions. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a Luddite. I love my Kindle and use it all the time. But, I favor actual pages between my fingers. I want to have the book or magazine on my shelf so I can easily reference it if needed.
My fear is that we’re going to see more and more magazines cease publication, at least in hard copy format. Back in 2014, I did a blog post called Prepper and Homesteading Magazine Round Up in which I listed several publications I felt were high quality and worth reading. Of the 10 on my list, 4 have since folded – Back Home, Self Reliance Illustrated, New Pioneer, and American Frontiersman. Here’s hoping the rest of them stick around a bit longer.