How To Pitch: Aaron Kylie, Canadian Geographic
December 14, 2017
If there were ever a contest for most passionate Canadian, Editor-in-Chief of Canadian Geographic Magazine, Aaron Kylie would surely be in the running. After graduating from Ryerson University with a degree in applied arts, Aaron began working at Outdoor Canada where within his first year, he became the managing editor. After a decade in the role, he moved on to expand his knowledge as the publications manager at the Canadian Wildlife Federation where he oversaw their three publications, Canadian Wildlife, Biosphére and WILD – a magazine for kids. From there, Aaron moved into his current position at Canadian Geographic Magazine, where he shares his love for Canada and passion for wildlife with an even larger audience.
We sat down with Aaron to learn more about Canadian Geographic Magazine, what he looks for in a pitch from a travel journalist, as well as if the publication is open to stories outside of just Canada.
1. What is the history behind Canadian Geographic Magazine and its connection to the Royal Canadian Geographical Society?
Canadian Geographic magazine started as the Canadian Geographical Journal in May 1930, so we have a long history. The magazine was created by the non-profit Royal Canadian Geographical Society, which is still its publisher today. The journal’s first editor Lawrence J. Burpee actually penned what became the Society’s mission statement in that first issue: “to make Canada better known to Canadians and the world.” And the magazine lives up to that same mandate. The Society was founded a year earlier, and beyond the publication, also supports Canadian geographical expeditions, and provides grants and scholarships for cutting-edge geographical research. It’s also active in building, promoting and supporting geographic education throughout the country, through its educational program, Canadian Geographic Education, which is one of the largest programs of its kind in Canada with nearly 20,000 member educators.
2. When a publicist pitches you a travel related story idea, what three things should they consider before contacting you?
I’d hope they’d consider we’re Canadian. That’s important for a variety of reasons. I’d also hope that they’d be generally familiar with what we do (and what we don’t do). Third, we’re a small team that aims high, so I always appreciate patience. We compete with other media outlets that have much greater resources.
3. What is your pet peeve when being pitched and/or working with Public Relations Professionals?
There’s just about nothing worse than being pitched a story you’ve already done.
4. How do you balance featuring content from amazing Canadian destinations with content from equally enticing destinations around the world?
We’ve actually dedicated one of our current four travel issues to foreign destinations, focusing on the places Canadians travel to the most, so we don’t find it a huge challenge. In our other travel issues, we find little spots to feature cool foreign travel opportunities. When it comes to our regular issues, foreign content has to have a strong Canadian connection, or it doesn’t work for our readers. At the end of the day, we are CANADIAN Geographic, and our readers expect a lot of Canada, or strong Canadian ties.
5. What role, if any, do press trip opportunities play in your editorial decision making?
Press trips play a big role in our editorial decision making. We’d much rather share first-person generated content of travel destinations. Can Geo’s brand is renowned for great storytelling, great photography and great cartography, and rightly or wrongly, we want to produce the best of that ourselves, with our most trusted Canadian contributors.
6. What makes a story interesting for you and most importantly for Canadian Geographic readers?
I think great stories are pretty simply based on great narratives. Those need cool settings, interesting characters and some compelling threads around which to tell a story. I also think Can Geo readers love to be surprised. A recent story that got a ton of feedback from our readers was one on Canada’s problem with garbage (we’re the largest producer of trash per capita among G8 nations). I think on the surface it’s hard to believe a story about garbage could be so engaging. But it was, and I think readers respond to new/different stories they hadn’t heard of before or weren’t aware of.
7. Where has been your favorite place to travel and where are you heading next?
I’m asked this a lot, and I love everywhere I travel. They’re all unique and different and I find them impossible to compare. But, instead of copping out with that answer, I’ll give you a clear one: Furnace Falls on the Irondale River in central Ontario. There’s a small, roadside picnic stop along Highway 503 adjacent to the falls, which cascade in such a fashion that you can wade into them (carefully!) and sit in them with the water rushing over your shoulders (or even your head, depending on your age or size). It’s an amazingly refreshing spot on a hot summer day. I’ve been visiting the place since I was a kid. Halifax is next in early October.
8. In 2017, Canada celebrates it’s 150th (sesquicentennial) Birthday – what is one thing about Canada you think everyone should know?
That Indigenous People were living in what is present-day Canada for nearly 13,000 years before Canada existed, and as much as I’m a proud Canadian, we should not forget or take that fact for granted.
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