"This one got a little stalled" (or: Pulling the plug, part 2)

Were my editors mostly lazy about dealing with my article or mostly lying about planning to publish it in the first place? You decide! (Feel free to present other possibilities for me to shoot down.) And if you get stuck, try this: On December 10, two days after her last look at the Google document holding my article draft, the main editor launched a women's running online newsletter. That's great! Except when you're already shirking your duties at your day job and telling your freelancers your Outside plate is perpetually far too full to keep up with. (Some people can do more than one writing-related thing at a time; others plainly can't.)

Since my first post about this just two days ago, input from a number of readers with personal and second-hand experience suggests that having business dealings with
Outside almost invariably comes coupled to various degrees of misery. Somewhat more to my surprise, it seems that Outside's star has fallen drastically in the eyes of most longtime readers since the current crew took over and decided that, among other things, the fitness world needed its own version of Jezebel. And to the extent that anyone in a position to at least put a tourniquet near the wound even hears of these gripes, I suppose they could attribute this apparent shift in popular opinion to people like me being too old to appreciate their jazzed-up mission, but they could also consider the possibility that they've been systematically ruining a formerly esteemed source of real information, and are forcefully unprofessional in any case.
If it's typical for people to not get paid for almost six months after invoicing
Outside, I'm guessing one of one or more things will happen soon. The will either pay their freelancers less, which they can easily get away with because as it is they're running garbage a lot of up-and-comers would happily barf up for the publishing credit alone (and to be fair, $600 for 700 or so words in this industry is generous, although it's far less so it's never actually paid); they will shift their model away from page views- or clicks-for-revenue toward something else, and simply run fewer articles from random writers; or they will get really drunk, tell each other falsely "We tried our best!" and proceed to burn the offices down for the insurance money, which will then arrive 171 days late.
Ironically, the only things I'm tempted to be embarrassed about concerning this whole fiasco are how polite I was in my e-mails after about the first four months of this shit, and the way I effused dishonestly over unremarkable feedback in in effort to get a mediocre editor to run the damn piece. I think, though, that the lack of a basic acknowledgment of my message from the editor-in-chief was really what bothered me the most; that's just a classless move, one no one would have gotten away with before social media came along and normalized being unproductive as hell at media jobs.


I should invoice the company just for the thousands of words I dedicated to trying to get meaningful attention from this bonehead.


When I look back on this, I expect my predominant source of aggravation will be having talked at length to so many people who believed, rightfully, that their words and efforts would appear in a media outlet and therefore not be wasted. Because of this editor's airy inattention to the entire show, I contend that she has screwed all of them over as well.


On a final note, I know exactly what the fatal flaw with my piece was, and there is absolutely nothing I could have done to facilitate its publication other than change some of the names of the people involved. I have left clues about this, but anyone who has already gone even partway down the rabbit hole with this knows what I'm talking about.


From: Kevin Beck <kemibe@gmail.com>

To: <M****@shitmag.com>

Tue, May 29, 2018 at 3:18 PM

Hi M****,

**** tells me you're the go-to person for pitches. I'm a former senior writer for Running Times and have been a frequent contributor to other outlets that. like RT, are now either dead or moribund. It's somewhat surprising that Outside has come to feature the best running content of any of the remaining publications, but with RW having morphed into a version of SELF or Prevention, I'm thankful!

My idea is perhaps not what you're generally looking for, but I do think it's a story.

Running is disappearing from the U.S. conversation; the early promise of the internet to help raise its profile is being compromised by consolidation in the streaming world that’s making it harder than ever to follow the sport, even at a grassroots level. Track fans are sliding toward endangered-species status. But while distance runners and their fans often bemoan the low visibility of road racing and track and field, but in the finest American tradition, complaining is about all anyone does.

In New Hampshire, an unlikely alliance of involving coaches, a running store, and a timing company has produced a heartening situation: A pair of websites created in recent years by active high-school coaches now offer free live-streaming of all of the New Hampshire state championship meets as well as a host of midseason invitationals. Often, commentary is provided by a blend of current coaches, recently graduated (e.g., collegiate) NH athletes, and people's parents. They do a slew of interviews. It is all centered on a positive presentation without it being nothing but a series of vacuous promos, if that makes sense.

The webcasts are pretty sophisticated, with onscreen clocks and, in the case of cross-country, multiple cameras set up at different point around the course to capture entire races. And in a wag-the-dog aspect of all of this, kids and coaches are actually using the webcasts to scout each other and plot race strategy.

I don't know if you've heard of Flotrack or MileSplit, the for-profit, ramshackle operations who have a near-monopoly on streaming events these days, but NHTrackAndField puts what they do to absolute shame, and again, at no charge. That itself is a big deal.

I'd like to write about exactly how this came into being, because it could serve as a model for others to follow. The big ideas are that 1) the coaches and others behind this are dedicating enormous amount of time to this with no promise of monetary reward (or more accurately, a guarantee of no financial reward) and are doing so because 2) their goal is to greatly elevate the profile of track and field/XC and the kids who do it. And it's working, albeit in a state with 1.4 million people.

Let me know if this sounds like anything you're interested in, and if not I am sure to pester you with other ideas in due time. Getting Alex was a huge score for Outside, but you have others doing fine things in the running realm as well.

Kevin

--------

On Fri, Jun 1, 2018 at 1:10 PM M**** wrote:

Hey Kevin,

Thanks for the note and the kind words! I do think there's a story here. (I'm actually from NH, so that may have biased me just a little.) I think this would work best at around 1200 words, largely how you described it: first, detailing the efforts in NH and tying that back to the broader issues we see in the sport and what the rest of the running community could learn from this subculture. We generally pay $600 for stories like this one. How does all that sound to you?

Let me know if you have any questions or concerns!

M****

--------


On Fri, Jun 1, 2018 at 1:41 PM Kevin wrote:

That works wonderfully! I swear I did not know that about you. I'm from Concord, and will be watching the livestream tomorrow if I can.

I was also going to send you a note expressing consternation about my typos, but it's too late for that.

More soon -- gotta run out for a bit. Have a great weekend!

--------

On Mon, Jun 4, 2018 at 12:31 PM Kevin wrote:

Hi M****!

I talked to T**** (one of the two principals of the websites and a C-B coach) yesterday and it was quite productive. I am going to speak with a few others in the loop to gain their perspectives as well.

What are we looking at here for a deadline?

--------

On Mon, Jun 4, 2018 at 5:05 PM M**** wrote:

Hi Kevin,

Glad you're on board, and thanks for the update! Deadline is flexible for this one since it isn't super time-sensitive. How about June 18? If you think you need more time, just let me know what you had in mind, and I'll make a note of it on the calendar. Thanks!

M****

--------

On Mon, Jun 4, 2018 at 5:57 PM Kevin wrote:

That works well for me. The New Englands are this Saturday and will be the last meet the NH T&F crew webcasts until fall. so in addition to the interviews I'll be able to gather a little intelligence about the webcasting itself. They are sending me some photos, too, in case you want those.

(Since I grew up in NH, I still find it off that the school year ends before Memorial Day pretty much everywhere else and starts in mid-August.)

--------

On Sun, Jun 17, 2018 at 12:16 PM Kevin wrote:

Hi M****,

OK, here's my draft. It's longer by a fair amount than we agreed to (~1,600 words) but hopefully this won't be as big a deal with an online piece as it might be for print.

This might be the first semi-coherent response to the incessant bitching about Flotrack et al. I've yet seen -- I don't mean my story, I mean the action of the people in it. Since Massachusetts is getting a similar thing going, maybe it really will become a trend. Larry Eder just did a blog post about how social media might save running; I think his general point stands even if social media per se might actually ruin virtually everything.

Looking forward to your thoughts! Thanks for this opportunity.

KB

--------

On Sun, Jun 17, 2018 at 2:26 PM Kevin wrote:

...and almost forgot: Here are a couple of pics if you can use them. The one with just two people in it includes T**** (L) and G**** (R).

--------

On Mon, Jun 18, 2018 at 11:12 AM Kevin wrote:

Argggh. I hate to keep doing this, but the owner of Marathon Sports finally got back to me after ten days and wants to talk on the phone today. If you think there is room for a few words from him, I would like to include them, but if not I won't bother.

Sorry, M****! I'll probably talk to him anyway, but if I can't work anything I learn into the story, that's not a problem.

--------

On Mon, Jun 18, 2018 at 11:31 AM M**** wrote:

Hi Kevin,

Thanks for the updates! No problem if you want to try to work something from him into the story and then send a revised version back to me. I probably won't get a chance to read it for a few days anyway. Thanks! Keep me posted.

M****

--------

On Tue, Jun 19, 2018 at 11:38 PM Kevin wrote:

Probably the absolute last prospective final edition attached.

--------

On Sat, Jun 23, 2018 at 10:44 AM Kevin wrote:

Hey M****! I know this one has no deadline and all, but I just wanted to see if you had a chance to scan it and if it passes perfunctory muster.

(Actually, this is just my various neuroses in action, half-expecting a contemptuous e-mail that says "NO! THIS SUCKS!" for no special reason, even though no one has ever said exactly that, yet.)

KB

--------

On Mon, Jun 25, 2018 at 9:12 AM M**** wrote:

Hi Kevin,

Sorry for the silence! Nothing to worry about here, though—I just haven't had a chance to read this yet. I'll keep you updated once I do! Thanks for checking in, and look forward to working with you on it.

M****

--------

On Mon, Jun 25, 2018 at 4:34 PM Kevin wrote:

Ossum. I figured as much. Talk to you soon.

--------

On Wed, Jul 11, 2018 at 9:43 PM Kevin wrote:

Hey M****! Just figured I would check in and see if you have had a chance to look at this and if you have a (ballpark) idea of when it will run. The NH guys are curious...

Thanks again!

--------

On Mon, Jul 16, 2018 at 1:27 PM Kevin wrote:

Hi M****,

I just saw this on a 5,515-member Facebook group dedicated to how USATF is hurting running. There is a lot of whining there, but the matter of inadequate coverage is clearly on people's minds, increasingly so all the time.

There was also this yesterday...

https://www.facebook.com/stephenmagness/posts/10100824327927051

Just hoping to get word that the article is moving forward in some way as I think it has the potential to attract a decent amount of attention.

Thanks!

KB

--------

On Fri, Jul 20, 2018 at 2:56 PM Kevin wrote:

Ahhhh, just saw on Twitter that you moved, to NY City at that. You've been busy! Hope you're settling in, and please forgive my hectoring.

--------

On Mon, Jul 23, 2018 at 8:07 AM M**** wrote:

Hi Kevin,

Thanks for your patience, and sorry for the slowness. But yes, the move is why I've been somewhat unresponsive recently! I do plan to read this in the next few days. Sorry for the delay on it!

M****

--------

On Tue, Jul 24, 2018 at 12:48 PM Kevin wrote:

No prob, M****. That is a hell of a migration. I spent three months in lower Manhattan once, and surprisingly, the running was not the worst I had ever experienced. Even getting used to the bridge into and out of Brooklyn was fun in itself.

I'll wait to hear from you on your own schedule. Enjoy your boxes! ;o)

KB

--------

On Fri, Jul 27, 2018 at 8:20 AM M**** wrote:

Hi Kevin,

Thanks for your patience! I took my first pass at this. My main feedback at this stage is just that I think we should do a bit of reshuffling and pare down some of the more in-the-weeds details about NH, but I think there's a lot of good stuff in here to work with. Take a look and let me know if you have any questions about my notes. No rush, and I'll take another look whenever you're set. Thanks!

(link)

--------

On Fri, Jul 27, 2018 at 1:26 PM Kevin wrote:

Looking over this now. Great feedback -- I knew there were parts where I'd included gratuitous info, but it is hard as something of a NH insider to fully discern which is gratuitous and which is important. Since I'd gone over the word count, I anticipated trimming this in a way that would make it more broadly applicable.

Thanks, and I will let you know when I have worked through all the questions!

KB

--------

On Fri, Jul 27, 2018 at 9:53 PM Kevin wrote:

OK, I have given every section an edit. I can't get a great sense of how this needs to look for a worldwide audience because I seem unable to completely divorce myself from being from NH and knowing the scene so well. I think I clarified Runner's Alley's role and vision decently, but just let me know!

--------

On Tue, Aug 7, 2018 at 1:10 PM Kevin wrote:

Hey there!

Just bugging you again to see where we are with this. I am admittedly eager to see it published and ideally before XC season starts (which, granted, is a ways off) even though it's not time-sensitive in the usual sense. If I need to do anything substantial with it, I could turn it around pretty quickly.


And don't take this personally, I have had 14 espressos and have e-mailed every living person whose messages are in my inbox and probably a few others too. :)

--------

On Fri, Aug 17, 2018 at 3:56 PM Kevin wrote:

Hi M****,

Just checking in my couple-of-times-a-month way to see where this piece stands. I was actually expecting -- or hoping -- it would run at around the start of cross-country, where it would seem to make utmost sense. I'm guessing the rumbling about Flotrack will start again in earnest as the throaty Letsrun hordes start complaining about their collegiate meet coverage again, so in that regard the timing could be advantageous.

Thanks, M****, and have a great weekend!

--------

On Sun, Sep 9, 2018 at 11:16 AM Kevin wrote:

Hi M****,

I *think* I addressed all of the remaining comments and suggestions, and I think the way you've tried to pare the piece down to its essentials has worked well. Let me know if I didn't dig into anything I was supposed to!

KB

--------

On Mon, Sep 24, 2018 at 3:17 PM Kevin wrote:

Hi M****,

Since I assume all of the issues have been resolved with this, do you have a ballpark idea of when it might run? I was hoping it would be in advance of most of the fall marathons and cross-country meets the usual suspects will start to stream soon...

Thank you!

KB

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On Wed, Oct 3, 2018 at 11:17 AM Kevin wrote:

Hey M****,

NewHampshireCrossCountry.com is going to be streaming meets each of the next five weekends, through the Meet of Champions (not sure about the New Englands, which are at Derryfield Park this year) to go with the four meets they have already streamed this fall.

I feel that if this story doesn't run during XC season, and you've given no indication that it will, the entire idea will be essentially wasted. If the allure is to show how a small group of people manages to handle the task of recording, uploading and commenting on running competitions in real time, for free, it's not going to be as helpful if people first read about it in December and only surf through the site's archives.

BayStateRunning.com in Mass. has also grown substantially this season from what I can see (that was another of your questions).

Again, I might not be so concerned if this weren't about an accepted pitch that is now over four months old, with the first draft having been sent in early June. I'm sure as a writer you would be concerned about such a protracted timeline, especially when it's been hard to elicit responses from the editor.

I realize this is not a blockbuster story by any means. But the people I interviewed have been very gracious and spent a lot of time on their responses, and some of them are beginning to wonder if I might have made up the part about having an actual assignment.

If I can just get a rough idea of when it will run, I promise to relax until it does.

Thanks!

KB

--------

On Thu, Oct 4, 2018 at 12:47 PM M**** wrote:

Hi Kevin,

I'm sorry for the delayed response—I haven't forgotten your story, and I plan to move it to the top editor very soon. I thought it still needed some more tightening before we could move it along, and I have done most of that at this stage.

Once I have feedback from the other editor, which will likely be early next week, I will send you those notes and we will keep the story moving along. I understand your eagerness to publish the story, and barring any major feedback from the top editor, I'd expect it to go live in the next week or two. Thanks for your patience. Let me know if you have any other questions!

M****

--------

On Thu, Oct 4, 2018, 12:59 PM Kevin wrote:

Sounds good. I may have mentioned this before, but it's actually reassuring that some editors at some outlets actually look closely at running-related stories and attempt to help shape them when they can. Much and maybe of what ends up published nowadays is basically crap, including some of what I've had published in dead or moribund publications. (Man, I sound old.) Thanks for the note!

--------

On Thu, Oct 18, 2018 at 10:59 AM Kevin wrote:

Hey M****,

I thought I would bug you to see if any progress has been made on this, as you anticipated a couple weeks ago that the article would likely go live by the end of this week. (I realize that this is ultimately above your level of control, though.) The NH State Meets are a week from Saturday, so anyone who reads the piece and has an interest in such an endeavor wherever they live might be able to take away some do's and don't by seeing how these folks handle a championship-level XC meet. (True, they could rely on archived videos too, but that's not exciting.)

Thanks!

--------

On Tue, Oct 23, 2018 at 11:49 AM M**** wrote:


Hi Kevin,

Sorry for the delayed reply. This one got a little stalled, but it's with top edit and I'll keep you posted once I have more feedback for you. Thanks!
--------On Mon, Nov 5, 2018, 12:28 PM Kevin wrote:

M****,

Since the New Hampshire high-school cross-country season is now over, I'd really like to receive a firm "will be published by" date, along with some kind of formal author-publisher agreement, within a couple of days.

If I can get just that much, I won't have to think about the article or bug you again until it runs. If I can't, I would prefer to shop it elsewhere. It is almost unfathomable to me that a 600- to 700-word piece that I submitted over five months ago is, for whatever reason, still languishing in some unspecified editorial stage. I'm sure you understand.

Thank you.--------On Tue, Nov 6, 2018 at 8:02 AM M**** wrote:

Hi Kevin,


I just added the notes from the top editor to the Google doc. We still have to go through the rest of our standard edit process before I can give you a concrete publish date, but once we have this through TE it should definitely move more quickly. You'll see that the main pattern in the top editor's feedback is just that we need to strengthen the theme you and I talked about initially: that there are lessons the broader running community can take away from what's happening in New Hampshire. Otherwise, it reads a little too much like a niche, local story. Take a look at those notes and let me know if you have any questions. Once we've resolved those, I'll send it along for a QC, which should be less involved as long as we've handled the top editor's suggestions. Let me know if you have other questions. I understand your desire to publish this more quickly, but I definitely think these edits will make it a stronger story.
--------On Thu, Nov 8, 2018, 8:08 AM Kevin wrote:

OK, thanks. I'll go carefully through these notes and do my best with the revisions to make sure this resonates with the widest audience possible, which is obviously the whole point.--------On Tue, Nov 13, 2018, 5:03 PM Kevin wrote:

OK, I have juiced up the appropriate areas. I'm trying to make sure everything you need is included without worrying if it will bloat the word count. Let me know if this works!

Also, again, even if I seem testy and paranoid about the publication time frame, I will say how nice it is that you and others are trying to make this as solid as possible. It has been a while since I have experienced this in any meaningful way.--------On Wed, Nov 14, 2018, 11:51 AM Kevin wrote:

I don't know if you have actually looked at any of the videos, but the just-completed New Englands are a good example (they were at Derryfield this year).

http://newhampshirecrosscountry.com/2018/11/11/2018-new-england-championships-recap-results/

The videos are pretty high-tech. They do coverage from as many points as they can on multi-loop courses, which all of them are now. At Derryfield, they manage to get the start, then about 600m, 1K, a mile, 1.2 miles, 2 miles, 4K, 4.8K and the finish. They have a little schematic map of the course in the lower left that shows where a given portion of video is coming from. They offer splits. I didn't get into this aspect in the article owing to space concerns but perhaps I should have. --------On Sun, Nov 18, 2018, 3:03 PM Kevin wrote:

If it helps, here's an example of how BayStateRunning.com intersects with the running community. They promote discounts to members of a specified team on certain days or weekends and the site does a write-up of the team's accomplishments at that time. Every team that wants one gets a chance. So the site benefits from the support of Marathon Sports, which benefits from the advertising that attracts kids and parents, who benefit from the exposure and the sale prices.


--------On Tue, Nov 27, 2018, 4:38 PM M**** wrote:

Hi Kevin,


Just wanted to let you know that I'm catching up post-holiday and haven't forgotten this one.


Will be in touch soon. Thanks, and hope you're well!--------On Tue, Nov 27, 2018, 4:41 PM Kevin wrote:

Thanks! And it's not quite "post-holiday" (I sorta wish it were) but I know what you mean.-------- On Tue, Dec 18, 2018, 9:19 AM Kevin wrote:

Hey M****,

I'm just wondering if this one is likely to be tabled until January, since nothing much tends to happen in the second half of December pretty much worldwide. Not a big deal at this point, but I figured I would check in.

Thanks!

Kevin--------On Fri, Dec 21, 2018, 7:12 AM M**** wrote:

Hi Kevin,


Thanks for checking in. Sorry for the delay on this one—I was planning to get it ready before this break but I haven't been able to between other edits. I'll be traveling today and offline for a few days, but I'll plan to dive into this one in the new year.


Talk soon, and happy holidays! Thanks for your patience.
--------On Tue, Jan 8, 2019, 10:01 AM Kevin wrote:

Hi M****,

Happy New Year. Do you have any sense yet of when the article might see daylight?

Thanks!--------(This went unanswered for the next six days, so in a move that was probably overdue and destined to be pointless, I elected to contact the editor-in-chief of the whole shitty enterprise. The subject line: “Piece accepted (?) for online publication in May 2018.”)--------On Mon, Jan 14, 2019, 11:24 AM Kevin wrote:

Hi C****,

I'm writing because of a piece I pitched -- successfully, at least in the nominal sense -- to M**** M**** in late May of last year. It's a ~700-word article about a group of coaches and others in New Hampshire and Massachusetts who have begun offering free and (usually) live webcasts of the state's high-school championship track and cross-country meets, complementing a web presence that is many times superior to that of Milesplit. The idea was to push the message that enough cooperation among devoted and enthusiastic supporters could not only promote high-school running is a positive and powerful way, but do it free of charge -- essentially the inverse of the Milesplit/Flotrack model.
I submitted my first draft in early June. Since that time, I have been greeted by combinations of silence, false promises and deflections when trying to get a sense of when the piece would run. I was very disappointed when cross-country season came and went without the story being published; I interviewed a lot of people for this, and they were happy to spend time on the phone, submit photos, and go through the usual helpful motions, and now many of them seem to have assumed that I was writing this piece on spec (not a term they know, but you get the idea).

I started freelancing for Running Times in 1999 and spent about a dozen years there as a senior writer. I've also had my work published in Competitor, Men's Fitness, Triathlete and a bevy of other publications (most of them dead or moribund, but that's beside the point). I do mostly non-sports stuff now, and Outside is really the only decent market left. Before this, I've have never experienced any hold-up comparable to this one in sheer duration or any kind of delay coupled to what may be charitably termed lame excuses.

I didn't insist on a contract at first – M**** assured me that such articles pay $600 and that there was no deadline because it's not a time-sensitive story (which Is not exactly correct). But when I did, that was ignored, and M**** just told me it would be published soon and so on. She hasn't responded to a message I sent last Tuesday, and at this point I would really just like to receive a formal author's agreement so I can codify the arrangement and passively wait for the piece to go live.

I am not trying to get M**** in trouble and I know how this stuff tends to work. And honestly, this is no blockbuster piece, just one stressing a point or two I haven't seen made yet in the running world. But seven months is a long time in my or any writer's world, especially when that stretch includes a lot of declarations that wind up to be false. I've included the back-and-forth between us below.

Thanks, C****!

Kevin

--------(Perhaps not surprisingly, C**** didn’t acknowledge my concerns; in lieu of even a brief "Hello! I'm looking into it," he just punted it back to M****, who magically resumed our e-mail chat that very afternoon.)

--------On Tue, Jan 15, 2019, 8:17 PM M**** wrote:

Hi Kevin,

I understand you're eager for an answer on your track story. I haven't forgotten about it, but I do have some other time-sensitive projects on my plate right now. I know it's frustrating that this one has taken a long time in revisions, but I want to make sure I can devote the proper amount of attention to it so we can get it ready for publication, and that hasn't been possible for me recently with the rest of my workload. I can certainly send you a contract for the story (we've recently updated our contracts protocol), but understand that our contracts don't include a publication date, it would simply include the rate/word count that we discussed previously.


I'll be in touch soon once I have revisited the piece. Let me know if you have other questions on this.

--------(After this, I waited for over a month, during which time a number of things happened to change the story in a way that hammered home two points: One, that if this had been published last summer, it might have foretold or even affected some of what’s transpired since, and two, the story – which I had already decided I was done contributing to regardless – would no longer be viable as it stands. I sent the following, and it’s the last word by anyone on the matter. The editor in question has vague-tweeted about either this situation or one remarkably like it and says she will "sit this one out," which, if it does in fact apply to me, is absolutely consistent if nothing else.)
--------On Mon, Feb. 18, 2019, 2:37 PM Kevin wrote:

Hi M****,

After your last message, which included the standard, amorphous "I'll be in touch soon once I have revisited the piece," I was simply going to wait until this actually happened. But it's now been another five weeks, and another whole competitive season has come and gone, so I will reply.

You've continued to plead being too busy to properly review and green-light a 700-world article that has already undergone multiple tweaks, but the fact remains that you told me on October 4th that "barring any major feedback from the top editor, I'd expect it to go live in the next week or two." Since this was already over four months after I'd submitted my first draft, and it's now been three months since this assurance from you, I think my concerns are legitimate. Yes, I realize that "I'd expect" is a hedge term that makes no guarantees. But I assume that as a freelancer, you yourself would probably not react favorably after submitting a piece and having it remain unpublished over eight months and many false assurances later.
(I'm not surprised the editor of Outside didn't bother responding to my e-mail, instead just punting it to you. I'm sure he's also "too busy" to tap out a paragraph-long acknowledgment of my concerns.)
I get that this article simply isn't a priority for you or Outside, which is fine; I myself wouldn't rank it very high on a list of interesting things in running despite my abiding enthusiasm that it is still useful -- and, to a non-trivial extent, time-sensitive (what the story's principals have done won't be unique for long). And I believe you when you say that you have a lot of responsibilities and that you have to deal with a lot of nonsense (though you don't phrase it like that), including who knows how many queries.
But in the 20 years I have been writing off and on for running magazines, I have never had a delay of more than a couple of months between initial submission and publication -- and that was for articles that ran in the print version of magazines. I have also operated almost exclusively in an environment of contracts and absolutes of some sort, and entering into an agreement that merely says "Yes, we'll sign on to this but we won't provide a publish-by date" is just bad business from an author's standpoint. This is all simply so far outside the realm of my experience as a writer that I still regularly assume the whole thing is just headed for a black hole. If there's a silver lining, it's that I may get a check sometime in 2021 for $600 and be honestly surprised and wonder what it's for.
I won't bother you or anyone at the magazine about the date, and you can just let me know when you plan to run it -- I have no more input to offer. But again, I think you can appreciate why this protracted a process strikes me as absurd.

Anyway, thanks for your e-mail.

Kevin