CORAL Interview: James Lawrence
12 Feb, 2009
Originally posted: February 2009
By Ret Talbot
Back in January, when I learned that James Lawrence would be the new editor and publisher of CORAL Magazine, I took the opportunity to interview him (“JL” below) for my SaltwaterSense blog (“SS” below), which is presented by Saltwaterfish.com. With the permission of Saltwaterfish.com, I have decided to re-publish that interview here as my preliminary blog entry on this site. I hope this interview is a good introduction to the new CORAL Magazine. If you have not yet subscribed, do so now!
Between conducting this interview and today, I have had the opportunity to read the first issue of CORAL cover-to-cover, and it is, in my opinion, everything and more than James promises in this interview.
SS: When KORALLE was first conceived in 1999, what was it that set it apart from other aquarium magazines?
JL: The goal was to publish readable and reliable articles from experts, both home aquarists and marine biologists, with a mind-boggling use of brilliant photography, and very high production values.
SS: When was the English language edition of CORAL launched, and what was its reception in the United States? What other international versions of the magazine are currently in production?
JL: CORAL has been published in English for five years, and it has become a collectors magazine, read and kept permanently by many serious aquarists in many countries. It is published in Germany, France, Italy, Poland, and Russia. For the first time, we will be making a serious effort to get our edition into the UK, Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong, and other places where English-language magazines are sold.
SS: What is the current relationship between the various editions of the magazine world-wide?
JL: We share content (back and forth) from the German KORALLE, the mother ship, ably piloted by Daniel Knop, who is personally known to many US aquarists as intensely interested in the future of marine aquarium keeping.
SS: I have heard it said that CORAL provides a content-driven alternative to most other marine publications currently available to hobbyists. What does this really mean? Can you give us a few examples?
JL: Sure. In the first issue of 2009, Dr. Ellen Thaler takes a scalpel (maybe a machete) to hobbyists who buy fishes they have no hope of keeping alive. She says many aquarists are chronically underfeeding their fish and argues forcefully that keeping one fish of a species to prevent aggression is just wrong in many cases. Most other magazines wouldnt have the courage to print such strong opinions, but this is from a woman who clearly knows reef fish behaviors. Even I dont agree with every word she says, but she makes one think (and she knows how to get Moorish Idols to thrive!).
SS: Again, I have heard it said that CORAL provides a bridge between the ecosystems upon which the hobby depends and the hobby itself. How so?
JL: CORAL is where the worlds most enthusiastic reefkeepers collide with marine biologists and professional public aquaria aquarists. Its an exciting forum that works at many levels, even for newcomers. There is an element of being on the unpredictable cutting edge that I, as a reader, always love. I find that world-renowned scientists and the t-shirted livestock manager at my local store both have the same respect for the same magazine. Its quite extraordinary.
SS: Can you give us an example?
JL: In one issue you might find Anthony Calfo telling us how to frag Ancantastrea and Dr. J.E.N. Veron, the father of coral taxonomy, tackling the genus from his field observations. Then you might have the worlds finest underwater close-up shots by Denise Nielsen Tackett of stunning Acans in the world.
SS: CORAL has always been known for its aesthetic appealit is, in short, a beautiful publication with an attention to detail in layout and design that is unusual for a hobby rag. Does Reef to Rainforest Media, LLC intend to maintain the same level of artistry that has made CORAL a sought-after collectors item?
JL: I would simply ask people to watch what we do. We will be spending more on content, printing, and getting the magazine into the hands of readers. It hasnt been the easiest magazine to find in the past.
SS: It has been claimed by the magazine that CORAL (as well as KORALLE and the other international editions) is the leading reef magazine in the world. Is this the current owners and editors position?
JL: Sounds immodest, but there is no other print marine magazine that comes close to the circulation of the English edition of CORAL, let alone to the combined international reach of all other editions. There are certainly bigger aquarium magazines, some very good, but none exclusively aimed at reef and marine hobbyists.
SS: The appeal of the magazine to marine aquarium hobbyists and professional aquarists is clear, but you also have said that marine biologists are an important audience. In your experience, do you find many marine biologists subscribe to, contribute to and/or read CORAL? Do they view the magazine as more than a hobby publication? If so, why? Can you cite one or two?
JL: Among those in the CORAL circle of contributors are marine scientists such as Dr. Gerald Allen (coral reef fishes), Dr. Jack Randall (coral reef fishes), Dr. Charlie Veron (stony corals), Dr. Phil Alderslade (soft corals), Dr. Rob Toonen (marine inverts). Among the many Microcosm authors helping are Scott Michael (reef fishes), Matt Wittenrich (marine fish breeding), Alf Nilsen & Svein Foss (beginning to advanced reefkeeping), and many more.
Our Board of Advisors ranges from Martin Moe, father of the modern marine hobby in my opinion, to Sylvia Earle,(former Chief Scientist of NOAA), a passionate spokesperson for saving the oceans (and a keen supporter of marine aquariums, by the way).
SS: What influenced Reef to Rainforest Media, LLCs decision to take on the license to publish CORAL? How does it fit in with the overall mission and philosophy of Reef to Rainforest Media?
JL: I believe I first met Daniel Knop at one of the very early MACNA Conferences, and there is a great deal mutual respect. When the former US publisher failed to complete the December 2008 issue, Daniel and I connected with some urgency. People like Julian Sprung and others joined us in wanting to be sure CORAL and its readers continued without missing an issue.
At Microcosm, which is sharing space with CORAL, we have always tried to blend trustworthy information, great photography, and a respect for the natural reef environment. The whole KORALLE/CORAL empire is built on the same foundation by people who love aquariums and care about the future of coral reefs.
SS: What is the status of former subscribers to CORAL? Will they continue to receive the magazine as long as their subscription is current, or do they need to re-subscribe?
JL: The former publisher, Mr. Leng Sy of EcoSystem Aquariums, has cancelled all former subscriptions. He refused to transfer or even sell them to the owners of CORAL. We are ready to make all them happy if they contact us. We believe in the contract between a publisher and his or her readers to deliver what was paid for.
SS: As editor and publisher, what are your specific goals for the magazine in the upcoming year?
JL: We are increasing circulation by 33% immediately. CORAL has been enthusiastically accepted for national distribution into the busiest Barnes & Noble, Borders, Books A Million and Hastings Bookstores. We have a thriving new online subscription center set up especially to help former subscribers who are frantic to re-subscribe.
We are going to be working with LFS Locator.com and hundreds of the best independent local stores to strengthen the fundamentals of this hobby, one that uniquely needs great local resources in addition to conscientious online dealers.
SS: Tell us a little about what we might expect in the first issue, and when readers will have the opportunity to get their hands on it.
JL: We have proofs of the whole issue pinned up on about 20 feet of office hallway, and everyone in the building is blown away. Matt Wittenrichs extreme closeups of Mandarinfishes breeding and juvenile Mandarins are worth the price of admission. The triggerfishes cover story is a definitive guide to some of the most intelligent and interesting fishes we can keep. Scott Michael pitches in a review of triggers that can be trusted in the reef aquarium, and Anthony Calfo debunks a bunch of myths about reef lighting. Sometimes more is way too much. It will mail in the last week of January.
SS: Is there anything else youd like to say about CORAL?
JL: We hope people will take a look and judge for themselves. Our introductory offer gives people a first issue free. If anyone is disappointed, they get all their money back. We are betting that people will love it. We want to take a very good magazine and make it even bettera must read for the passionate marine aquarist.
This interview was first published at SaltwaterSense.com, the featured blog presented by Saltwaterfish.com and written by Ret Talbot. To learn more about Ret and his other writings about the marine aquarium industry, please visit his website at www.RetTalbot.com.