Meet the New Guy

Sean MacDonald joins Cycle World as associate editor

Sean MacDonald sitting on a motorcycle
Sean MacDonald.Sean MacDonald

It was right in the middle of writing a welcome announcement of our new hire—Sean MacDonald as associate editor—that he actively and enthusiastically chimed in with a desire to publish something on the web. And I smiled because it was because of this very enthusiasm to publish and his deep love of motorcycling and storytelling that I’d wanted to get him on staff in the first place. So, below, read his take on where he’s been and where he’s going with us. For my part, I am glad to say the world’s largest motorcycle media brand is in the position to add a new staff member at the midway point of the year, and extra stoked that he’s a to-the-bone rider and enthusiast focused on telling people how great the motorcycle world truly is. He would have had his first day in the office yesterday, but he was riding north to San Francisco to fight a ticket. So, please meet Cycle World’s new Associate Editor Sean MacDonald and join me and the rest of the expert staff at the magazine in welcoming him to our multimedia ride:

After a few weeks of freelancing, random side jobs, and taking every meeting under the sun, I've finally decided to take a position with Cycle World Magazine. It's going to be very different from everything I've done before, which is a why it's going to be so awesome.

I honestly hadn't even really considered going to one of the more established magazines until several of you went off and started signing up for subscriptions and including a note about how it was you "putting your money where your mouth is" in wanting them to hire me. I saw that at the very time I was considering leaving journalism altogether, and I have to admit it hit me pretty hard.

I toyed with the idea of starting my own thing and, while I could probably make it work financially with a few ads—it would simply take me way too long to build the readership base up to a size where I could have the access to bikes and launches needed to make a site worth reading. I don't want to just find a new job, another paycheck, or somewhere else that will let me play with bikes. I want to do something I'm proud of.

Sean MacDonald riding at track day
Sean MacDonald.Sean MacDonald

There were several other opportunities presented. Ones where I could make more money or have more freedom or get to focus more on having a personality. But all of those are selfish desires, and they aren’t ones that make me better at this profession.

So I found myself in the office of Mark Hoyer, editor-in-chief at Cycle World, after we both got earfuls from people we each respect on why we needed to meet. Somehow I'd never met Mark before but, like many people in the online space, I sort of viewed CW as a dinosaur and assumed they weren't interested in the way I want to talk to people.

I took that meeting for two reasons. First, I thought they would likely offer me some sort of retainer or freelance arrangement where I could contribute regular and thought that, with one or two more similar arrangements with other sites that had contacted me, I could sort of have my cake and eat it too.

Second, they'd just made a really interesting staffing decision with their last hire, adding Sport Rider's Bradley Adams to their staff when a recent spot opened up. There aren't a ton of staff gigs at the big magazines, and there are plenty of veterans out there who would love the gig, so I took notice when Cycle World went with the guy I think has the most potential in this profession. Of all of us journalists who attend all of these launches together, Bradley is not only one of the most talented riders, but he's also one of the hardest working and most enthusiastic guys out there. Better yet, he's one of the few who always wants to get better - especially when it comes to his writing and finding new ways to engage and serve the audience.

Sean MacDonald riding an adventure motorcycle
Sean MacDonald.Sean MacDonald

So there I sat, expecting to try and fit a Sean-sized peg into a square hole, when Mr. Hoyer started to tell me about his vision for Cycle World. Cycle World is the largest motorcycle magazine in the world, and has an incredible history. Joe Parkhurst, its founding publisher, was inducted into the Motorcycle Hall of Fame as "the person responsible for bringing a new era of objective journalism." Huge names have called themselves staffers or regular contributors including Peter Egan, Kevin Cameron, Hunter S. Thompson, Don Canet, and a host of others.

They’ve become a standard for bike testing, with self-implemented tests for everything from horsepower to quarter-mile times to fuel economy. They take their role as the standard for objectivity and as-scientific-as-possible testing very seriously. And their audience appreciates it.

However, as we've seen with several of the motorcycle manufacturers, what works in the past does not always translate to the future. The genius of Cycle World is that they've always been able to adapt, while keeping their foundation and what has earned them so much respect. And, in a changing landscape of media, where magazines are no longer used only for finding out facts, they know they need to continue to adapt to meet readers needs and interests.

Hoyer knows that they have the traditional stuff nailed. There simply isn't anyone better at riding and testing than he and Canet and Conner and Adams. So when he told me that he wanted to keep that, but also felt like CW could grow in the personality/enthusiasm/telling big and epic stories department—he had my attention.

Sean MacDonald racing supermoto motorcycles
Sean MacDonald.Sean MacDonald

It turns out, Mr. Hoyer and I have very similar ideas on what the best version of a modern motorcycle publication should look like. We share many of the same writers, stories, and concepts. We've taken very different paths and have very different backgrounds—but that's a lot of why this will be so good. Today I start with Cycle World Magazine—so go sign up for a subscription and bookmark their website. I'll be the first addition (not a replacement) to their editorial staff since Hoyer took over as EIC in 2009 and, as such, I represent them adding to their current strengths instead of them changing direction.

I'll be focusing primarily on web, which is where I feel most at home. My goal is to bring to it some of the beauty we had with Lanesplitter, to make it a place where the comments are as interesting, informative, and fun as the content. A place where we can break news, share knowledge, and discuss stuff.

Bradley and I will also be tackling video, so you’ll have more opportunities to make fun of how I dress or suck compared to properly skilled riders. Finally, I’ll also get to go on epic adventures or do crazy things and share them with you. Go make myself miserable in more 24-hour races or crash dirt bikes or ride in far off lands so I can tell you about it and how to do it yourselves.

Better yet, for the first time I'll work at a real publication with real structure. I'll have an editor, which I've never had, which means my articles will hopefully not have so many damn errors. It means I'll have the resources and hopefully the time to go tell the stories you and I will want to read. It also means I'll get to work shoulder to shoulder with guys with completely different talents and strengths than I have. Guys who can ride and write far better than I. I'll get to learn from Hoyer, Canet, Conner, Adams, Cameron, Egan, and the rest of the Cycle World staff. And they'll get to learn from me.—Sean MacDonald, Associate Editor