An Editor’s Vantage Point Helps the Metalworking Industry

Originally titled 'The Vantage Point Advantage'

Long ago, I told a story about being an editor in metalworking and the value of the vantage point it gave me. The point of that story is still true today.

“Once upon a time there was a large city in a valley. Surrounding the city were high hills and mountains. From the tops of these mountains, anyone could look down into the city and see what it was like.”

With that I started an imaginative story characterizing my early experiences as an editor of a metalworking magazine. I composed this piece for the December 1981 issue of this magazine. At the time, I had been writing my monthly “Mark: My Word” column for only a year. This would be my twelfth contribution. I titled it “A Winter’s Tale.”

Rereading this column in 2018, I see that my little allegory was a good one: The inhabitants in the city are like people working in the metalworking industry, and on the hillsides and mountains are editors like me, people who observe, ponder and report. I noted that although we visit the city often and talk to those who are prospering or trying new things, we had never lived in the city. As onlookers, we didn’t always know in every detail the customs of the city or fully understand the dialects spoken there. Yet we could discover things about the city and keep the worthy citizens informed about how things are being done in different parts of town. This was an important job because the inhabitants of the city were so busy with the task of constantly building and rebuilding the halls and towers of their homeland, they rarely had the time to climb to one of the mountaintops or mountain ridges and study the scene below.

I described editors as not quite insiders, but certainly not outsiders either. We were not gurus or prophets, we simply had a vantage point that gave us a broad view. I noted that we had to be good listeners and good storytellers. That much I certainly came to realize, even with so little experience as an industry observer.

Thirty-seven years ago, I could not have realized how my interest in, amazement at and respect for this “City of Metalworking” would be sustained for almost four decades. I could not have realized that being a listener and a storyteller would never grow stale, become boring or easier to do (keeping up with ever-changing technology made this job a constant challenge).

I ended my original year-end column with this timely (and perhaps timeless) note: “This is the time for reviewing where we fit in for the sake of making worthwhile resolutions for the new year. In the context of my fable, I hope to climb a little higher but come down more often, to look a little more intently but grasp more clearly the big picture, and once in a while, just to sit back and admire this fascinating city of ours.”

I have kept and renewed this hopeful resolution year after year, but now a new resolution will have to supersede it. I intend to climb along different paths now, take views from new angles and find fresh ways to explore developments in metalworking. And finally, when I sit back, I will do so more contentedly now, all the while admiring this fascinating city with the same fervor and respect.