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December 2011 Firing Order Editorial

Working On The Jeep
John Cappa | Writer
Posted December 1, 2011

New Captain Of The Ship

It’s been over 10 years since the editor of Four Wheeler has even owned a 4x4. Today that’s no longer the case. I’m a dirtbag in comparison to the past editors. Not in the literal sense of the word, as I do shower regularly. Amazingly enough, I even know how to operate the washing machine, so my clothes are clean too, at least when I put them on. But if you were to put me in a police lineup next to the Four Wheeler magazine editors from the past 30 years, I’d probably be the accused. And I’ll admit to it. I’m not a traditional magazine editor. Having met several of Four Wheeler’s past editors, I suspect many were well-versed in the brilliant literary works of Shakespeare and Wordsworth. Others probably grasp tightly to journalism degrees earned at prestigious four-year universities. My stint at a four-year was very different. I was busy trying to figure out how to pass a quiz without completing the reading assignment and waiting till the last minute to turn in homework so I could spend more time in and under my 4x4s. In fact, first and foremost I consider myself a wrench and junior fabricator. It just so happens that I’m occasionally lucky enough to shoot a decent photo, and I can put together a somewhat coherent sentence. I won’t fool you with my literary polish; I don’t even wax the vehicles I own. And to that point, I wrote more than half of this editorial using my iPhone. It’s not that it really mattered because I can’t type efficiently on a regular keyboard anyway. I hunt and peck like most 4x4 enthusiasts. I’ve owned many different kinds of 4x4s and I’ve done most of the work on them myself, quite often in hotel parking lots, in camp, or on the trail.

Many years ago I used to enjoy teasing one of Four Wheeler’s editors. He wasn’t at all what I would even consider an off-road enthusiast, or for that matter, a likeable guy. He was a little bit of a snob and we used to joke that he hated his readers. I remember one year when all of the off-road magazines in our offices planned to make a heavy presence at the Tierra Del Sol Desert Safari in the Truckhaven Hills of California. A few of the magazine editors and sales staff were out wheeling, others were spread around camp replacing broken parts and prepping 4x4s for the event the following morning, and some were laughing and joking around the campfire with advertisers and readers who happened to pass by. This unnamed editor had rented a motorhome for the event. He didn’t have a 4x4. He was clearly visible from the campfire, sitting inside his motorhome, listening to classical music, reading a book, sipping on a glass of red wine, all by himself.

He was a typical Los Angeles neophyte. On Friday afternoons, I’d often catch him waiting for the elevator. I always got a kick out of asking him if he wanted to drink beer and shoot guns with me over the weekend. Not surprisingly, he never took me up on my offer. The truth is, I never really went drinking and shooting; I only wanted to see the horrified look on his face like I had just squeezed Bambi through a meat grinder in front of a kindergarten class.

Anyway, Four Wheeler was one of the first off-road magazines I drooled over in the ’80s. And it was one of the first magazines I wanted to work for by the mid-’90s. Unfortunately, or maybe fortunately, my career took a different path and began at 4-Wheel & Off-Road magazine. Two years after I was hired at 4-Wheel & Off-Road I was deemed competent enough to run my own title when I took the helm of Jp magazine. And there I sat, or rather stumbled, stressed, climbed, scratched, clawed, and bit for 11 years. In the past a typical magazine editor only lasted on average about 2.3 years. Staffers and editors were typically shuffled around because of new opportunities and advancements, but for whatever reason that hasn’t happened much at Four Wheeler. And the truth is that no staff movement can sometimes make a magazine stale.

So who am I? I am you, and as a 4x4 enthusiast I want to make Four Wheeler a magazine that I would want to read, and more importantly, a magazine that you’ll want to read, too. I believe it takes real commitment and dedication to make an amazing off-road magazine, and I think that I and staffers Ken Brubaker and Sean Holman—along with Art Director Greg Smith and Managing Editor Bennie Clark Allen—are up for the task. Now, I’m not so bold as to say I can pilot this ship better than the past captains, but I’ll do my best to steer into some interesting and entertaining waters.

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