In golfing terms, a caddie is always on hand to give insightful advice and support. They are aware of the challenges and obstacles of the course, along with the best strategy for playing it. Taking on similar responsibilities – albeit on the clay ground rather than the driving range – James Marchington has taken up the newly created position of Editor-in-Chief of Clay Shooting magazine.
James’ appointment strengthens Future’s field sports portfolio as he will be responsible for all clay pigeon shooting content created across the monthly print magazine and the website, as well as consulting on Clay Shooting’s branded events. This includes the Clay Shooting Classic and British School and Young Shots Championship.
Marchington is an experienced and knowledgable shooter who was introduced to shooting at an early age by his father. He has worked in the shooting press for nearly four decades as a writer, editor and photographer – including a spell with the Clay Shooting magazine of yesteryear. “I suppose you could say that I am new and old at the same time,” explains James, “I was the editor of Clay Shooting a very long time ago – probably two or three publishers ago. I also worked at Blaze Publishing for a while with the very grand title of editorial director, but largely I was responsible for Clay Shooting.
“What has struck me is how editing has changed in the past six or seven years. Traditionally field sports titles were all produced by small independent companies, owned by people like Paul Dobson and Wes Stanton. Now they come under massive publishing companies who own a host of titles. “When I used to edit and commission publications I was able to draw out a flat plan on a piece of paper and then get on with producing it! It’s probably changed more in the past five years than in the 30 years before it.
“I remember being sent, as a trainee sub on a field sports magazine, to the printers in Aldershot to check the press set in metal. Now it’s direct to plate. It was always said that the new way is going to save us so much time and trouble, and we can just sit here drinking tea and pushing buttons – I’m afraid it’s not quite like that just yet. “At its core though, nothing much has changed. A good photo is still a good photo. Good writing is still good writing.”
It wasn’t always James’ ambition to enter publishing. After attaining a degree in Animal Sciences from Nottingham University, he faced the dilemma of becoming a reindeer keeper or a sub-editor.
“Looking back, my life could have been very different! It seemed to work out for me though, from there I went to Burlington Publishing and couple of magazines. Following that I went freelance, did some PR work and ran a gun shop for a while but I always got drawn back into magazines.
“I ended up working for Archant. I left there for Blaze, where I was for a year or so before leaving in in 2012 – when I fell almost immediately into reporting for the Olympics.”
James counts his reporting at London 2012 as among his career highlights; he was the first journalist to interview Peter Wilson after he won his historic Double Trap gold medal. “I had never really experienced sport in that way, with so much emotion, and trying to construct news almost from thin air,” remarks James.
“There was a lot of excitement buzzing around, with a notepad and pencil to gather the news that was all around you – the experience really opened my eyes to it all. I realised that I had been making the job more difficult than it needed to be – theres nothing clever to it, just reporting.
“I am so lucky that I am able to combine my work with my lifelong passion for shooting. I have a special affection for Clay Shooting magazine, having been involved with the title since its early days. I am looking forward to building on what’s already been achieved to make it the magazine that clay shooters want and deserve,” James commented.
James argues that in an increasingly digital world, staying in print also gives your content an added credibility. “It’s a very human thing. We evolved in a stick-and-stones world, we enjoy the tactile aspects, and you cannot easily achieve that online.
“It’s no longer imperative to buy a magazine. You cannot beat the internet in terms of speed, so you need to beat it in other ways – by offering more depth and greater levels of expertise.” Having also helped launch The Shooting Show under Blaze several years ago – a platform that now has over 100,000 subscribers – James adds: “That was one of my big projects. I love video; it combines photography with constructing a story, albeit one that is told in a more immediate way through the senses. I hadn’t really expected to get back into magazines before this opportunity came up…”
James’s first issue of Clay Shooting went on general sale on 3 July. He says: “It’s different to what I have come from. And to have the Future team behind me is interesting and reassuring. My aim is to provide a magazine that is part of a community and entertaining for people. We also have to be seen to be setting the agenda for the sport – when we come out with something that moves the sport forward, it provides the internet with debate and shows we are setting the way.
“I am just starting from the beginning and thinking, ‘What would I want to see as a clay shooter?’ I want to see shooters gathering after a meet and poring over an issue of Clay, being interested by it and having people fighting to get their hands on the last copy.
“As we saw with the National Ladies Shooting Day, there’s great fun to be had and lots of people trying the sport for the first time. Getting that fun aspect of it without belittling and walking that fine line to get it right is an interesting challenge, and I’m looking forward to it.
“There is a weird mix to get right to appeal to everyone. We want to get the technical stuff right. Recently I’ve been looking at golf magazines, which actually do an excellent job in explaining the techniques through graphics and big designs. They are similar sports in a way, so we can learn a lot from the way that they are presented. It helps that I don’t actually play golf so that I can objectively analyse their magazines as I mentioned. Really, I wouldn’t be caught dead playing golf!”