Thirty’s Something

During a staff meeting in preparation for this anniversary issue, editor Bob Yearick insisted now was the time—after all these years—to reveal to readers what the TSN, in our corporate name TSN Media, represents.

I figured the story behind the letters would be about as interesting to readers as what I had for breakfast. So, I rejected the suggestion as being self-absorbed. But the staff countered, taking turns to support Yearick’s argument. Turns out, each had been asked more than once about the acronym. Plus, Facebook is the place to reveal what you had for breakfast.

So, I reconsidered. Not because I really believed readers were dying to know the story behind three letters, but because it was a good opportunity to share my view on why Out & About has survived for 30 years.

But first, for those who must know, TSN stands for The Softball News, a publication I started back in 1983 as a moonlight enterprise when I was a sportswriter for a small weekly in Maryland. It was my first taste of independent publishing and a lifelong lesson in the travails of being butcher-baker-candlestick-maker. To say it was a mom-and-pop operation would have been exaggerating my staff size by 100 percent. I sold the ads, designed the ads, covered the games, wrote the stories, wrote the headlines, laid out the magazine, then with the magic of wax and a razor blade, pasted the halftones and galleys on graph paper and did a late-night sprint to the printer and returned the next morning to pick up the publication and help deliver it.

Obviously, the experience didn’t scar me for life because in 1988 I began publishing Out & About while still producing The Softball News. Two publications merited a corporate name, so I chose the initials of The Softball News for one simple reason: I thought they were lucky. When The Softball News debuted in ‘83, we were the newest of approximately 50 softball-specific publications in the country. In less than a decade, that number was seven. We were one of the seven.

The secret to that survival? Recognizing an audience and adding energy to their passion. We engaged the audience in ways they found flattering and entertaining.

We didn’t just compile score and standings, we told colorful stories, had dynamic photography, and treated the sport like it was the biggest thing since WWF. We shined a spotlight on weekend warriors by naming Players of the Week, Teams of the Week and Top 10 rankings. And just to stir up the rivalries, every headline was a pun:  Herman’s Meats grills Goldey Beacom Alumni; Casapulla’s peppers Brandywine League foes. In fact, we were able to raise the profile of the game enough that we even had a short-lived TV show on local cable.

Five years later, we took that same energy into Out & About, ignoring the naysayers who complained there wasn’t enough going on in Wilmington to support our endeavor. In fact, during our first six months, more than a few area businesses told us quite candidly—and without animus—they doubted we’d last a year.

Undaunted but far from overconfident, we stayed true to our mission and convinced enough talented writers, photographers and artists that with their help we could be a valued storyteller. Compelling local stories told by local talent has been the key to our success.

That and our genuine commitment to the community. From the beginning we didn’t just chronicle the scene, we worked to expand it. When we saw a worthy enterprise in need of a hand, we tried to lend it. When we noticed a void, we worked to fill it.

In fact, we batted around a lot of ideas regarding the proper way to commemorate this anniversary. A bash for the decades was considered. In the end, we chose to stay true to our personality — more about the community and less about us.

The result, with apologies to ESPN, is our very own 30 For 30…30 events to commemorate 30 years. Ambitious, for sure, but it’s a fitting way to showcase many of the partnerships Out & About has developed over the years – partnerships indispensable to our longevity.

Thirty years? Go figure. To think that I’ve now spent half of my life publishing this magazine is, personally, astonishing.

But it’s also quite rewarding to reach this milestone, to know the community still has value for your contribution. That’s something Out & About has never taken for granted. And something we never will.

So, what do you think? Please comment below.