Journalism and horse combination leads to dream job

Stephen Kinney took a non-traditional route to become editor of The Morgan Horse magazine.

By Catherine Jones, NewsNetNebraska

Since 1789, horse fanatics have loved the Morgan horse. The Morgan horse is recognized for being a great companion and an outstanding athlete. The horse’s proud carriage, elegance, and willingness to please owners have caught many people’s attention.

Some people have dedicated their lives to Morgan horses, whether as a hobby, career or both. One of those people is Stephen Kinney.

Kinney said he was lucky enough to make a career out of his passions. He grew up on a horse farm in Eastern Canada, emigrated to the United States to be a full-time horse trainer, and is now editor of The Morgan Horse magazine.

Kinney’s story as an editor is unique. It’s inspirational too because Kinney’s career is surrounded by his passion for Morgan horses. Kinney’s first dream job was as a Morgan horse trainer. However, after parental encouragement, he went to Mount Allison University in Canada where he earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in English.

“I don’t know that that kind of education prepares you for a specific job. It lets you rub up against big minds, great books and challenging thinkers and prepares you for everything, not just one thing,” Kinney said.

Soon after graduation, he returned to his dream of training horses on his family’s farm. He could not make a living training horses, so his journalism career began at the local newspaper in his hometown.

As Kinney said, “I threw myself into this two-pronged career.”

Kinney worked with Jerry Rogers, a contributor to the small newspaper where they typed stories on a typewriter. The paper consisted of a three-member editorial team. Rogers always encouraged Kinney’s writing, telling Kinney he could do better.

“You don’t get to be a full-time journalist simply by going to journalism school. You have to know things, be passionate about something, have some areas of expertise,” Kinney said.

Kinney made a name for himself as a successful horse trainer when he moved to Ohio in 1982. He trained several World Champion Morgan horses.

His advancing age made it hard to continue training but Kinney’s expertise in Morgan horses opened the door to the Morgan horse publication industry. Kinney attended a dinner and sat next to Elizabeth Hobby, publisher of the Morgan breed publication.

“Come work for the part of the industry that actually makes money,” is what Hobby said to Kinney.

That 2001 dinner conversation led to Kinney being hired as managing editor for The Morgan Connection. When Kinney was hired, this magazine was the popular read for Morgan show horse enthusiasts. Kinney was employed here for seven years.

In 2008 Kinney was hired as the editor for The Morgan Horse magazine a publication of The American Morgan Horse Association. The association exists to preserve and promote the breed.

“You may think when you are in editorial [positions] that you’re not responsible for the money side of a publication, but content drives sales,” Kinney said. The publication has proven to be a financial asset to the association.

In this position, Kinney also has helped make the decision to keep printing the publication instead of going digital only. There are a few articles shared online, but not a digital version of the magazine. Kinney said the audience wanted a print publication.

The publication attempts to follow the Chicago Manual of Style, he said; “attempts,” he explained, because they are not aiming for right or wrong, but consistency. All text copy is reviewed by two editors, a proofreader, and the graphic designers. However, what is most important to Kinney is the compelling, provocative content of the publication.

Stephen Kinney showing World Champion horse Aspenglow Genesis. 1999 & 2000 English Pleasure Champion. Photo courtesy of Stephen Kinney

The Morgan horse is known as “The Horse that Chooses You” because of the animal’s versatility. Kinney and the publication team honor this by ensuring the publication is just as diverse as the horse’s skills. The magazine honors all the different sectors of the industry: the various disciplines, youth activity, spotlights, shows and more. The spectrum of information the magazine covers requires travel to Morgan horse shows and many brainstorming sessions till “the cream rises to the top,” he said.

“A publication’s editor is responsible for every page of the magazine,” Kinney said.

This means Kinney has many different duties and responsibilities for the publication. He loses sleep making sure a copy is perfect. He reaches out to his audience personally and strives to make the readers feel part of the whole Morgan horse community.

One day Kinney typed and sent out 167 personal emails to the magazine subscribers whose subscriptions had lapsed. The audience is an important part of the business and a wide net matters.

A piece of advice Kinney offered did not have to do with grammar or spelling.

“Explore your passions, enjoy, indulge, learn, take sides, consume. I think you have to have an interest yourself to deliver interesting journalism,” Kinney said.

Passion and investment are obvious traits Kinney possesses, especially for the Morgan horse and journalism communities. Each publication edited and distributed is read by members of the Morgan horse community. He can connect people across the states with this outstanding publication.

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