NARGS Quarterly Editor

Submitted by Zander on Tue, 11/15/2016 - 08:37

Hello Fellow AdCom Members,

Don LaFond called me this morning, after receiving an email from Matt that he and Elizabeth had decided to replace Malcolm with Joe Tychonievich.  I told him that I was unaware of this decision. Apparently, so was Betty.  I do not know whether Richard was consulted, but I assume not.

David White just published the results of the survey.  The Quarterly is the most important benefit of belonging to NARGS.  If changes must be made to cover costs, then asking members who want hard copies to pay more is the  most favored option.  Reducing the number of editions is second.  Going exclusively digital is not a favored option. These results show how important the Quarterly is to the viability of NARGS as an organization.

Had I been consulted as a member of AdCom, I would have discouraged consideration of Joe Tychonievich for the post.  You may be unaware that Joe got his start in Michigan, working for Arrowhead Alpines.  Longstanding Great Lakes Chapter members know him.  While he is creative, with a strong sense of design, he is also known to move from project to project, leaving tasks uncompleted.  Yes, he has just published a book on rock gardening, but he had the resources of the Timber Press behind him.  Getting out an edition of the Quarterly requires wearying administrative tasks to be completed on deadline, as well as the contacts and deep knowledge of alpines to publish first rate articles.  The belief among members with knowledge of Joe is that he will fall short, despite initial enthusiasm.  And, we can’t afford to have the Quarterly fail.  We need to consider other editors.

The hiring of Malcolm’s successor will involve more than just someone to assume his role.  We do have ongoing financial difficulties with the Quarterly, as membership dues do not even cover the cost of printing and delivering the Quarterly.  Malcolm’s departure is the time to consider whether we should follow the example of the SRGS, publishing only twice a year.  Another possibility is that several donors will fund the gap between revenues and costs to allow the Quarterly to remain as such.  In any event, these questions are ones of general policy which the Board must address.

As for whatever discussions were had with Joe, please recall that the Board has to approve the hiring of the Quarterly editor, so two members of AdCom can’t extend a binding offer.



Submitted by Zander on Tue, 11/15/2016 - 08:38

Organizing this -
There are many things to consider when choosing an editor. Better more choices than less. I think each candidate should be vetted. If there is an issue from the past, they should be allowed to answer it. And to assure us how it will not happen in the future.
This should now really go before the board. The next editor, imho, may well determine if we go down the drain. I still recommend Joseph based not only on his latest book, but also previous one and the lecture he delivered to my chapter and to others. His charisma was infectious. We need that kind of draw power. While 448 members out of 1800 think the Quarterly is most important, others felt much less passionate. And then consider the 3000 members who voted by leaving the organization during tenure of the past couple of editors.
So let's give him a chance to answer. And get some input from others on the board who must make the financial decisions this year.


Submitted by Caroff on Tue, 11/15/2016 - 10:24

Before offering the editor position, we ought to know what that position will require.  And, we don't.  Malcolm's retirement offers us an opportunity to address the perennial losses NARGS takes on the Quarterly.  The results of the recent survey, which had an extraordinary response, show that our members value the Quarterly above all other benefits.  If changes are needed due to losses, they favor first an extra charge for members who want to receive a hard copy with regular members receiving a digital copy. Second, they favor reducing the number of editions to three.  

As these proposed changes involve general policy, the Board will have to decide on the best course.  The following information should be considered:

1.  When is Malcolm's contract up?  in other words, what is the time frame for making changes to the Quarterly and then approving the hiring of an editor?  

2.  A job description - have Malcolm write up a detailed description of his responsibilities.

3.  How much extra would we have to charge members wanting a hard copy to stem NARGS' losses?  NARGS has three basic membership benefits:  the Quarterly, the website and general administration.  These three items cost more than annual dues revenue. And, the recent survey showed that members want to see more improvements to the website, which will have costs, even with Elizabeth's careful management.  Richard would have information on the current amount of the shortfall, the projected shortfall and historic short fall going back at least three years.  With this information, the Board would be in a position to decide how much the extra charge would need to be and whether such a charge is feasible. 

4.  How much would the cost savings be if the Quarterly  were published three times a year?  How much would the savings be if it were published only twice a year?  Richard and Malcolm can best perform these analyses.  

5.  Are there major donors who feel strongly about the Quarterly and are willing to make significant, long-term commitments provided certain features remain? Betty, your group will have the answer to this question. 

With this information AdCom should be able to prepare a report to the Board, with recommendations on the best general policies for the Quarterly and the factual grounds for these recommendations.  

A few words about process.  Changes to the Quarterly and/or extra charges to members for the Quarterly require the approval of the Board of Directors.  See, Art. III, Sec. 7; Art. IV, Sec. 1; Art. VIII, Sec. 1.  With the approval of the Board, AdCom is authorized to annually appoint or contract for the editor of the Quarterly.  AdCom consists of four officers and one director at large. See, Art. VIII, Sec. 3.  To make the best decisions regarding the Quarterly and to have the resulting changes accepted and supported by the members, the By Laws need to be followed. 

Finally, what to do about the "offer" to Joe.  Why not be upfront and tell him that the offer was premature?  We don't yet know what the position will require.  He has many talents - he's a charismatic speaker and writer, who has just published a second book. And, he will be quite occupied in the coming months with speaking and promoting the book.   NARGS needs to decide what kind of publication it wants, how it will be delivered and what it can pay for editorial services.  Let's know what the job is first, then decide who might suit and be willing to take the terms.  




Submitted by Zander on Tue, 11/15/2016 - 11:07

Perhaps you didn't see what Matt said? He covered most of it. I am reposting it here

Let’s not jump the gun here. Don LaFond is wrong. No decision has been made by anyone yet.
I only asked a couple of us to start looking as Malcolm suggested that he wanted to do this a few weeks ago via a phone call and an email.  I had not yet released this information formally, except to a few who I had been chatting with – please don’t think that I was holding back, but rather – the last thing you needed a couple of weeks ago was me throwing in this wrench while we were already deluged by emails and issues  that weekend (if you can remember - Bylaws committee, nomination committee, letters, and at the same time, I was dealing with Malcom and the fall Q content, when he urgently emailed me with “by the way, I want to leave”. 
His decision was driven by the need that weekend also to rewrite and extend his contract, which I did - (to and issue –by–issue structure legally),. 
When we spoke later (a week ago Tuesday, he was more calm, so I scheduled a debrief with him on what he wanted to do, and how he wanted to handle this moving forward. 
Since his initial email to me expressing his decision came while  I was at the Berkshire Chapter meeting (and Elizabeth was there), we talked about how we might find a replacement for the editor. Jospeph was also speaking there at the time, and I had driven him from another engagement.   After  my mid-week call with Malcolm, Elizabeth emailed me and basically said, “what about Joseph for editor?”. 
I thought about it, and since Jospeh and I talk often, I thought that I should just feel him out, and I asked him if this was something he might be able to do and would he be interested. 
He was, and we left it with the understanding that we would be conducting a search for the perfect candidate, but that his name would be added to the list.
My restraint in informing you -  AdCom was simply based on the flood of issues which we needed to resolve over the past two weeks along with the fact that Malcolm has not yet formally submitted a letter to NARGS with his resignation. I was going to ask him for that this week, so that we could now begin the process – I also wanted him to focus on getting the fall Q out of the door and to the press.
Malcolm would like to leave before the Summer issue. 
I see this as a time to possibly reevaluate the Q  as well. I wanted an autopsy and debrief with Malcolm on what works and what doest, and bring some practical solutions to the table since I have been intimately involved with the design and printing of the quarterly in some ways. For example, I feel that this is the time to re-evaluate compensation – both for the editor, as well as considering anyone else who aids them (Joyce Fingerhut, for example). I welcome thoughts on that.
There are multiple ways to divide the roles and positions as well which we may want to consider, but adding complexity to this already job may not be the direction we need to go.
There other candidates.
Malcolm has suggested one candidate from Vancouver Island, Valerie Melanson who currently edits the Vancouver Island newsletter and I chatted with her yesterday. She is also interested in being considered for the position, but wanted a few days to think about how she might be able to make it work. I agreed that it would be nice to have someone from Canada and the PNW where we need more involvement for many reasons.
Valerie works from home, and although has experience with creating the Vancouver Island Newsletter, she does create the document in Microsoft Word and not a page layout program. It is then sent to another member (Judith Sellars) who lays it out in Pages and basically does the design and layout. Neither system is professional enough for real publication. I am not opposed to splitting the job however. Valerie seems upbeat, excited and  up for the task (she thinks) but wanted a few days to decide before we throw her hat into the ring.  I know very little else about her. We will need to do some sleuthing.
As for Joseph, I don’t know him that well  either, as I’ve met him a few times, but I know of him though social media and conferences, along with plant-friends. Obviously he is young, and comes with all that a 30 year old might bring to this role.( Good and bad I guess).  Julia presents some good points, and surely, Don has strong opinions about this. If they are to work together, that might be problematic.  As for Timber Press helping him – I can’t speak to that, however in my dealings with Timber press, the idea that their team offers little help is anything from the truth (aside from editing, with is a worthy point). If  anything, if an author can navigate those political waters, they can surely navigate our quarterly. 
He does have connections in the youthful plant world which is interesting.  It was my opinion that considering him was both risky yet bold (in an exciting way).  I am not sold on the idea though. He is highly connected and quite popular in the millennial plant community, and he does have two books under his belt, but that doesn’t mean that he would be the right editor. His appointment would however send different message to a new audience and might attract a welcome change.  On the other hand, I completely understand that he may be far from being considered an expert on the subject of alpines and rock gardens. But I don’t know if that is actually a disabililty, or not?
 In many ways, this job isn’t as much about being an alpine plant expert as it is about creating an engaging communication piece and a perhaps change agent since the Q is our most public piece.   Will he add cache? Perhaps not. What Malcolm was terrific, his expertise and opinions could have acted as a road block with some things, as well.
Right now, both candidates are not ideal but now is the time to cross that bridge. I am thrilled that at least we have someone to consider – my fear was when Malcolm called, that the same thing would happen when Grazyna (sp?) had to deal with this – that no one would rise. That may still happen, but at least we have potential candidates.
So moving forward,   I urge all of you to suggest viable candidates, seeking to meet as many of the criteria necessary as possible.  
  • Knowledge of Adobe InDesign 5.5 or higher
  • book or long page layout and epub experience
  • asset management (both image files,and written text), graphic design 
  • of course – a capacity to write well and to edit.
I feel that we will need to write a sort of job description, as well as look at how to possible break up the tasks if needed.
There will be significant costs we will need to consider as well, and this may augment the budget for next year.  If we find an editor who does not know or who can learn InDesign, our costs will be higher.  Malcolm has shared much with me on this matter, and I also understand the printing and publishing business - we risk adding perhaps thousands per issue if prepress moves to the printer, but we can also save with some line items which Malcolm kept in his budget (travel, etc). 
We will also need to consider purchasing an Adobe Cloud license, for the entire Adobe Suite (or at least, Photoshop and InDesign) for the candidate. I believe software was purchased for Malcolm, but now everything is licensed via the cloud. Also, should hardware be purchased (a laptop)?.
I am going to suggest that  a search committee be assembled  from among us (or from the board if we could) (and volunteers are welcome, or I shall appoint) 
 to both find the candidate and to present to the board the final candidates by January 15, 2017. If a new candidate can begin in February, that would ideal for Malcolm.
Lastly, given the number or emails which this will surely trigger – let’s try to be mindful about both rumors and in the quantity /quality of emails.  Please use restraint with text-speak, and unnecessary responses unless they move the conversation forward.

Submitted by Bobby Ward on Tue, 11/15/2016 - 12:41

There has been much discussion about Joseph Tychonievich and the NARGS Quarterly editorship. Today, Timber Press published an interview with him on its Web site:

You have to love his flow chart of "Should you have a rock garden?", including a plug for NARGS showing our logo.

If you haven't yet seen a copy of the book (Panayoti Kelaidis does a jacket endorsement), there are links to about ten pages inside the book at the bottom of the Timber interview.

Submitted by Caroff on Tue, 11/15/2016 - 16:11

We have two issues:  what changes to make in the Quarterly in light of NARGS' budget constraints and finding a new editor.  I've raised points we need to consider regarding the costs of the Quarterly.  Matt's message focused on the requirements for an editor and the search for him or her, while also addressing questions of compensation and investments in software.  The two issues aren't separate - more part of a continuum of decision points we will address in deciding the future of the Quarterly.  For instance:  we do need a search committee.  but, that committee will need to know how many issues of the Quarterly will be published each year, how much compensation can be offered the editor, whether individuals who have worked on the Quarterly will remain involved and compensated, and what resources will be available in the form of software and printing services.  These parameters won't be set until will resolve the cost issues surrounding the Quarterly.  A written plan, outlining what information is needed, assigning tasks to specific individuals and setting deadlines, would help us achieve good results in a timely manner.  

Submitted by Bobby Ward on Wed, 11/16/2016 - 09:21

Perhaps we could rely on the wisdom of the search committee that picked Malcolm.  It consisted of Michael Riley, Anne Spiegel, and Maria Gallett.  WIth Michael's permission, I am inserting below the a document the committee used in beginning it's search.

Following is our basic premise in the search for a new editor for the NARGS Quarterly:

We need to redefine the NARGS Quarterly for the purpose of being more vital and relative to the membership of the organization.  We see a journal with more and better color, interspersed throughout the text, where it best illustrates the topic at hand.  We see excellent quality photographs and excellent quality writing, editing and printing.  We need a journal that is exciting and informative to read for both our expert and novice membership, and one that will attract new members.  We also see a journal that will be interactive with our website.

We need an Editor to solicit and develop content relative to many diverse aspects of our interests as an alpine and rock garden society. These may include botanical profiles of individual species, species in a genus, hybrids in a focused group, garden profiles, plants in nature, field observations, first-hand horticultural trials and observations, ten best plants, ten easiest plants, ten most killed plants, etc. 

This editor should possess creative skills, be capable of meeting deadlines, and above all, have people skills.

There exists also a question about including newsworthy content in the journal.  In the past, much of the "current events" have been inserted to mailings rather than included within the journal itself.  Due to cost constraints, this will no longer be possible and we intend for the journal pages to reflect all the activities and interests of the organization. What would we like to see within the journal?  We could include any or all, or none of the following items:

President's message
Seed Exchange information
Financial information (required)
Committee activities and reports (website, books, awards, etc.)
Chapter activities, etc.

We see this new journal as being the product of the above described Editor, and having at his or her disposal an Editorial Committee composed of an Advertising Manager, an Image Editor, Proofreaders, Copy Editors, Regional Editors or whatever other help the Editor might need in order to produce a high-quality publication for the membership.  It goes without saying that the Editor would work with a production team including a Compositor, Printer and Distribution. The Editor would receive a token salary, the Editorial Committee would be a volunteer one, the production team of Compositor, Printer and Distributor would be an outsourced and hired professional service. Please apply directly to this email address: [email protected].

Maria Galletti, Vice President and Editor Search Committee Chairperson
Anne Spiegel Committee Member
Michael Riley Committee Member

This is where NARGS got into $$ trouble last time.

The Editor should not receive a salary if he cannot ready the product for printing. It just isn't that hard or time consuming. Sure maybe NARGS needs to buy an Adobe license. But these are skills every middle school is now teaching. Just look at print on demand - many people manage to print their own books without fuss.

Also I think there need be an emphasis on attracting membership. The editor needs social media skills and be prepared to use them.

[quote=Bobby Ward]

The Editor would receive a token salary, the Editorial Committee would be a volunteer one, the production team of Compositor, Printer and Distributor would be an outsourced and hired professional service.


Submitted by Bobby Ward on Wed, 11/16/2016 - 15:57

Your are right, Elisabeth: Contrary to the guidelines the last search committee wrote up, Malcolm does all of the Quarterly  page layout himself, unlike Jane McGary, the previous editor, who out sourced it.

There is an advertising manager, Wendy Sellars, to whom ads go, but Malcolm places them in the Quarterly and does the layout.

There are two voluntary proofreaders, Joyce Fingerut and myself (which I thoroughly enjoy).

I agree social media skills are needed these days. And Malcolm isn't on any media that I am aware--certainly not Facebook or Twitter.  I have many "friends" whom I know in the garden world solely through social media, but never have met them face to face.

This is from Betty who does not have computer access currently:

I would like 2 issues
I think the position should be split 
I do not want to be involved in committee
We have to cut costs. 

Submitted by Spar on Mon, 12/19/2016 - 14:00

Just on Quarterly, Julie is right, where is the finances of hiring Joe, what is his Job Description and length of trial period.

Do we have anyone else to ask. 

Yes, ADCOM may approve the editor.  I have given my approval to hire tentative to finance questions being answered. Zander, Mattus are on Board.  Richard????

Obviously Julie has questions, so let's do this.  By phone??


How many issues is Joe going to do. Do we want to make a change in the number of issues?

Do we want to entertain the SRGC proposal and tailor it.  Is Julie designated with that task.  She had fine comments regarding the concept.

I thought Matt asked her to do an analysis.  Allen Press, etc.  Whether digital copy to SRGC  or hard copy.  Cost of mailing.

Who is talking with David Rankin to get more information.


All of this is related.  

The By-Laws say in  Article VIII that the Adcom, "with the approval of the Board, shall annually appoint or contract for the editor of the Rock Garden Quarterly..."   Doesn't this mean we need Board approval to replace Malcolm?  Richard

That's what it reads.  However, Peter did all the negotiations then ask for Board's approval by e;mail.  We can do that.

I'm more interested in the part that the BOD can only approve expenditures it votes on annually.  One assumes that's the budget and we should not be in deficit without their approval either.  

Also, we need an actual date for the new admin to take over after election.