Jeff Troy, former editor-in-chief and “Model Builder” columnist for Park Pilot magazine, shares his experiences with launching, editing, and writing for Park Pilot
Clarissa Poston: How did you first get involved with Park Pilot magazine?
Jeff Troy: [Former] AMA Publications Director, Rob Kurek, asked me to come to Muncie to speak with him about AMA’s new Park Pilot Program and its supporting magazine project, Park Pilot. We both thought that I would be the right person to take Rob’s suggested outline and use it to create a new and interesting magazine for AMA.
CP: What made you want to become the first editor of Park Pilot magazine?
JT: It would be an honor. Since the mid-1990s, I had been the editor of Hobby Merchandiser, an international trade magazine for the hobby industry. Rob always seemed to enjoy my writing, and in particular, my editor’s column, “Jeff Troy’s Page Four.” Rob and I both thought I could add experience and humor to the new pet project, and I was excited about doing a magazine for model airplane consumers.
CP: How long did you edit Park Pilot magazine? What was that experience like?
JT: My work began with the 2008 launch, and I remained editor-in-chief until the end of 2013, when budget concerns had the magazine come [in-house] to [AMA in] Muncie, Indiana. This magazine was always fun to create because every issue let readers see the hobby and the people in it, as no other aeromodeling magazine had ever shown it.
CP: Can you describe a bit about the process you went through to find writers/contributors for the magazine, and perhaps list some initial hurdles you had to cross?
JT: There were no hurdles to clear; I knew what I wanted and the road ran straight ahead. I handpicked my writers based upon my personal knowledge of what they [did], their standings in the hobby, and how we might work together to vault them into the same kind of legendary personalities who had inspired my own early years as an aeromodeler. My clearly-stated intent was to build a “legion of superstars”—The Park Pilots—who might someday become the Dave Platts, Nick Zirolis, and Chuck Cunninghams of tomorrow.
CP: How long have you been writing for Park Pilot magazine?
JT: From the first issue to the present. I now write “Model Builder,” a regular column I use to show aspiring modelers tips, tools, and procedures to get the most from their bench time.
CP: What was the process for editing Park Pilot magazine out-of-house?
JT: My writers would send me their raw text and images. I would do a rough edit and forward the material to our gifted graphic artists, Brian “Curly” Wilson and his wife, Vicki. They would work their magic to create visually dramatic page layouts in Adobe InDesign, drop in the text and images, and then return the pages to me for final editing—no widows, no orphans, and no jumps, with paid advertising always on right-hand pages in appropriate sections of the magazine.
CP: Tell me a little bit about “Jeff Troy’s Page Four.”
JT: “Jeff Troy’s Page Four” came about when I took the editorial reins at Hobby Merchandiser. I believe that an editor’s name should carry far greater clout to a page than any throw-away cliché such as “From the Editor’s Desk” or “Editorially Speaking.” Every consumer magazine has an editor, no big deal. Only Park Pilot has Jeff Troy.
CP: What was your process for finding topics to discuss in “Jeff Troy’s Page Four”?
JT: Usually no more than bouncing around a few theme ideas with Rob [Kurek] for each issue, coming up with a cover concept, and getting back to work on the magazine!
CP: Did any obstacles arise in the creation of the magazine? How were they overcome?
JT: Yes. Two EC (Executive Council) members had expressed some concern about one of the people I had chosen as a regular contributor. I explained my reasoning and gave my word that this person would prove to be the best possible choice for the particular column in question. The EC accepted this and chose to wait and see. When the time came for the EC to sign off on the premier issue, I had won the confidence of all of the higher powers—they loved the magazine, including the contributor who they thought might trouble them.
CP: Has anything surprised you about Park Pilot’s publication journey, or are things as you predicted them to be?
JT: Mostly as predicted, although many of Park Pilot’s features had never been seen in model airplane magazines—entertaining treats such as a logic problem puzzle and writer biographies in each issue, and mandatory fun on each and every page. Coming from the entertainment industry, I have always placed far greater value on name recognition and writers’ personalities than showing one more grip-and-grin image of a modeler kneeling with an airplane. You want a different reaction? Give ’em something different!
CP: What was your favorite part of editing for the magazine?
JT: Knowing that my work might have positive influence on the development of entry-level RC pilots’ minds, interests, and skills.
CP: What has been your favorite part of writing for the magazine?
JT: Initially, it was coming up with strong cover articles and seeing how Curly would give me equally powerful page layouts and transform my cover photos into compelling art. The Fall 2008 “Dawn Patrol” and Winter 2012 “Invincible Brits” issues are fine examples of his unique talent. Today, it’s picking a model [that] I’d like to build and using it to pass along tips and techniques to broaden reader fulfillment in the hobby.
CP: How did you feel about the redesign of the magazine in 2015?
JT: Nice. Lots of visual impact and several talented new writers.
CP: How do recent issues of Park Pilot compare to the magazine’s initial issues?
JT: Not better, not worse, although positively not the same vehicle. The original mission of the magazine was to inform, educate, and inspire the new Park Pilot Program member, who was not necessarily an experienced modeler. Today’s Park Pilot looks and reads more like any other RC modeling magazine—great layouts, plenty of grip-and-grin, and articles aimed toward pilots and builders with some previous level of exposure to the hobby.
CP: Is there anything else that you’d like readers to know about your experience in editing/writing for Park Pilot magazine?
JT: Only that I thoroughly enjoyed the entire experience—working with former colleagues at AMA, editing my first consumer magazine, offering new promotional avenues to my many industry contacts, and bringing so much valuable information and inspiration to hungry readers.
CP: Do you have any fun facts or stories about your experience with the magazine that you think readers would enjoy?
JT: Attending hobby trade and consumer shows as an AMA editor was always a good time. I visited with old friends, new readers, industry contacts, and event organizers. I was introduced to the latest product releases and often asked to review a new model, radio system, or accessory.