When growing up in southeast Alaska and Seattle, magazines were a staple diet in our house and one of those was the Alaska Sportsman, which printed wonderful stories of adventure, ranging from hunting Dall sheep, moose, brown bears and caribou, to casting for cutthroats, silver salmon and steelhead.
The magazine was based out of Ketchikan, Alaska and was founded in 1935. It sold in 1958 and eventually became Alaska Magazine. For a while, a company called Alaska Northwest Books was located a couple miles from the family home in Richmond Beach, Wash., and they had a full collection of past issues of the Alaska Sportsman, dating back to the early years. I used to walk into the offices and go through dozens of copies of the magazine each time, sometimes buying past issues, often just finishing and walking out the door. Looking back I figure the desk gals must have thought I was crazy and they probably kept their eyes on me thinking I was going to steal something. But my only honest interest was in reading and looking at the images.
Over the years I’ve continued to read Alaska, but I’ve felt like the magazine slipped in the past decade or so. It didn’t seem as authentic to me and it was being beat by the competition, namely FishAlaska! magazine, which took over the sporting niche Alaska Sportsman used to hold. Alaska still tries to maintain a sporting quality by offering a department each issue called Alaska Sportsman, but the pieces haven’t been very engaging and might be cast-offs from Alaska’s holding company, Morris Communications, which also owns Gray’s Sporting Journal.
But there’s a chance things could change because in the February issue Alaska announced a new editor, Rebecca Luczychi, and maybe she’ll bring a passion to the mag. Unfortunately, the only sporting option in the current issue is a piece on fly fishing the Kwethluk River in western Alaska. And what caught my eye more than anything, was a quote by one of the guests accompanying the writer on this trip. That dude said, “Back home in Idaho there is steelhead salmon fishing…”
Now that wouldn’t be such a problem if Alaska’s associate editor, Serine Halverson, hadn’t written the article. Halverson admits in this story that it’s her first fly-fishing trip. She doesn’t, to her credit, try to come across as an expert. But a steelhead salmon? To let that quote get past the editor’s desk and into a magazine about Alaska concerns me. Where is the Alaskan expertise going to come from? Who’s going to assign the articles?Who’s going to know what Alaska is all about and be able to form a magazine to match the needs of readers and a state that needs more people to visit?
Don’t get me wrong. I like Alaska magazine, love the state as if it were my own, and think that Alaska is a valuable component of tourism and marketing. I just hope that Luczychi and Halverson are ready to take on the challenge and make this the magazine it used to be. Ok, enough critique. I’m sure they could fire some jabs at Tonic and Fly Rod & Reel. I’m just wishing them good luck and promoting you guys to pick up a copy of the mag, cross your fingers, and check it out.