49 thoughts on “Is North and South Magazine Going Belly-Up?

  1. Eric Wittenberg

    Kevin,

    I think I can lend some insight. By way of introduction, I own a major block of voting stock in the company. I am in the top ten of the group of largest shareholders, and until two years ago, was a member of the board of directors. I was kicked off the board by Poulter when he realized that I had turned hostile and would no longer approve his actions in managing the company without question. Consequently, I have some inside knowledge and insight that few others have.

    The company has always been severely undercapitalized, from its very beginning. Poulter has always been very proud of the fact that he started the company on $15,000, which I can understand. That would be okay if he’d been able to take that $15,000 and turn it into a profitable operation, but it has never made a profit. In fact, the company has lost money every year of its existence.

    There are a variety of reasons for that. First, and foremost, while he’s an excellent editor, Keith Poulter is an atrocious businessman. If N&S fails, it will be the second business he’s run into the ground, the first being a wargaming company. He just has no idea how to run a successful and profitable business.

    The biggest problem is that he and his ex-wife Kathy, who, conveniently enough, is the CFO of the company without the qualifications for the job, own enough stock to put down any attempts to depose them. I know this for a fact, because I tried. When I failed, that’s when I was kicked off the board in favor of John Y. Simon, who was willing to be a rubber stamp for Poulter. Since John’s death, that board position remains open and unfilled. There’s nobody to prevent Poulter from simply doing as he pleases.

    Terry Johnston, the editor, and Joyce Gusner, the art director, were the only voices of reason, and were my allies. Terry, of course, was fired, and Joyce, sadly, died of breast cancer. All of the artwork and composition work is being done in China. Joyce had a large block of stock, but I’m not sure what happened to it. Terry had a few shares, but he was sent packing. When they dropped out of the picture, there truly was nothing to prevent Poulter from doing as he damn well pleases with the company without having to answer to anyone.

    When he and Kathy split up, Keith took up with a woman from China, and he has been regularly flying back and forth to China. He’s never been good about communicating, but when he’s in China, forget it. Don’t expect a response, because it’s just not going to come.

    The last I knew, the magazine’s printer was owed in excess of $150,000 for back printing bills, and the cartographer was also owed a substantial sum of money. It’s entirely possible that the cartographer pulled the plug as a consequence of nonpayment. That wouldn’t surprise me in the least. Maps aren’t cheap, and the number of skilled and qualified cartographers is small, to say the least.

    Regarding articles: one of the reasons why there are so many book excerpts is that Keith doesn’t have to do much work with them. Plus Gordon Rhea takes his payments in stock, so Keith doesn’t have the associated cash flow problems. He’s notorious for not paying authors timely, so nobody really wants to write for him any more. I know of numerous authors who either haven’t been paid at all, or have been forced to wait for significant amounts of time to get paid. That has caused the stream of quality material to dry up.

    So, to sum up, it wouldn’t surprise me in the least if the thing is swirling around the drain. Keith had me approach Eric Weider to see whether Eric might be interested in acquiring N&S, but with ACW and CWTI to worry about, Eric had no interest. Without that infusion of cash flow, and with nobody willing to put money into the company, it’s probably nearing the end of the line. And that’s a shame.

    The biggest shame is that it was all avoidable but for Keith Poulter’s ego.

    Eric

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  2. Eric Wittenberg

    Forgot to mention…the website is down because Keith permitted the domain registration to lapse. That’s certainly a simple enough thing to do, but he couldn’t be bothered with it.

    Eric

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  3. Kevin Levin

    Eric, — Thanks so much for the comment. I didn’t realize the situation was so bad, but given the quality of the magazine over the past year I guess we shouldn’t be surprised.

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  4. Eric Wittenberg

    Kevin,

    Regarding the lack of maps in N & S, I’ve been advised of the following by someone with inside knowledge, which I wanted to pass along:

    David Fuller, the former N & S cartographer, did not, as Keith wrote in the last issue, sever ties with N&S to focus on his day job for any reason (financial or otherwise). In truth, he received an offer from Dana Shoaf to do maps for CWTI and, after a trial period, accepted CWTI’s offer to switch sides. I understand that was really astonished to read Keith Poulter’s public take on the matter in the current issue of N&S. I don’t know whether David Fuller has formally advised Keith Poulter of the switch, but it’s apparent from Keith’s bold-faced lie that he knows about it since Dana Shoaf, the editor of CWTI, advertised the addition of David to their team on the front cover of a recent issue of CWTI.

    So, that’s the real truth about the maps.

    Eric

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  5. Joe North

    Hmm, wasn’t there an offer to buy a lifetime subscripton in the last issue of N&S?

    This suddenly sounds like a very bad offer…

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  6. Chris

    I know how hard it is to keep a magazine going. I was the publisher and editor of one for 2.5 years. It started a a b/w rag and by the last few issues it was something I was proud of, unfortunately we ran out of money.
    http://www.screenwritersutopia.com/SM/

    The business side is almost more important than the editorial. Because of money issues I ended up doing all graphic designing, layout (Quark, Photoshop) editorial, ect. It was a nightmare…

    C

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  7. Ethan S. Rafuse

    This is all very sad news. I consider North & South a very worthy publication and think it would be a real shame to see it go the way of Columbiad, which also tried to nobly bridge the academic-popular history divide. Both were/are good outlets for worthy essays that do not have the academic rigor and/or mind-numbing qualities to make them acceptable for a “high-brow” academic journal like Civil War History or Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, but are documented and can be, in their approach to the subject matter, a cut above what one usually finds in American Heritage-style publications marketed to a “middle-brow” audience. (That, at least, is how I think of the two articles I published in N & S.) Would the demise of N & S, coming after the same fate befalling Columbiad, signal once and for all that it is a fool’s errand to try to appeal to both academics and the lay reader . . . ?

    Eric’s frankly unprofessional–I hate to use this term, given my otherwise high opinion of Eric, but whether merited or not, there are some things that should stay behind closed doors–rantings against Poulter’s business acumen aside (and I will say that I have never had anything but positive and pleasant dealings with Keith), should we see the truly unfortunate demise of N & S, I would be more inclined to attribute it to a (perhaps healthy) decline in interest in the Civil War so palpable that one has to have their head in the sand to miss it. Welcome back to day one of Econ 101: too much supply–and as is the case at the end of any boom in any field of business, a lot of it of decidedly dubious quality–plus declining demand equals bad times.

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  8. Kevin Levin

    Ethan, — It would be ashame if the magazine folded for the very reasons that you mentioned. I was working in the magazine section of a large bookstore when that first issue was published back in 1997. For the most part the magazine has done an excellent of bridging the divide between academic and general readers. As a teacher many of these articles have become invaluable to me as teaching tools. I am able to introduce my students to new interpretations in a way that is both entertaining and accessible.

    I will say, however, that the last few issues have been incredibly disappointing. Of course, I hope that Poulter is able to rectify the situation, but keep in mind most magazines never make it past a few years.

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  9. James Jones

    “Say it ain’t so, Joe!” I have only recently had a nagging suspicion that something could be amiss with N&S. It is impossible to reach Keith in China or even at his office via e.mail, although after a good deal of trying, he can be reached by telephone. I have found him to be a very clever and engaging fellow, yet this news about the decline and fall of N&S doesn’t say much positive about his business acumen. The behind-the-scenes comments made by Eric are rather distressing and enlightening, but must be the right dope. I was amazed at the behind the scenes disputes and personality controversies. It paints a picture of passengers scuffling to get off a sinking ship. I have (had?) only recently begun writing for N&S and had hoped my continued submissions would evolve into a lucrative endeavor. Of course, I would hate to lose any extra income in these days of ecomonic distress, but what of that? In my spare time I have been churning our articles that may not now see print in N&S. Perhaps the recesssion is the main reason for the apparent decline – perhaps other similar magazines could prove receptive to submissions, unless they are facing similar problems. I can confirm the delayed payment information. I was saddened to learn of the lack of Keith’s lack of business know-how and now the magazine’s apparent loss of the terrific maps and illustrations he utilized. One wonders how he could have made a go of it for so long, unless, as Eric elucidates, his associates took up the slack and kept it going. Well, I for one hope that if there is a calamity in the offing he may yet pull it out of the fire.

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  10. Kevin Levin

    James, — Thanks for the comment. I also hope that Keith is able to turn the magazine around. The quality has of the essays has deteriorated over the past few issues and the last issue was a disaster. While I’ve been critical of late, I’ve been a reader from day one and even wrote a number of book reviews during the first few years of its publication. I will always be grateful for that.

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  11. Donald E. Collins

    I hate to resort to public comments on the internet, but as an author in the current (Dec. 2008) issue of North and South, I have reached a point of frustration. I personally consider North and South to be the best popular Civil War magazine on the market. Regardless of the quality of my article on the controversy within the Confederacy on the first National Flag, I believe the selection of articles in the December issue is excellent, and am pleased to have my article included. I have found my conversations with Keith, and Terry before him, to be very pleasant. Yet my frustration with North and South comes from several things. My article on the controversy in the Confederacy over the first national flag was accepted approximately two years ago by Terry Johnson, and was scheduled in the following issue. But when Keith took over, his emphasis shifted to the military and my article sat on a tw0-year back-burner until I lost patience. But my current frustration comes from six weeks of failure to contact Keith or anyone else at the magazine, and of the failure of Keith to either pay for my writing or to send me even one free copy. I had to pay full price at the newsstand for my own article. Is there any way to have the magazine provide author copies, if not the pay? Even with this, I am a fan of the magazine and hope for its success.

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  12. Kevin Weddle

    Donald,

    I feel your pain. I, too, have a sad story to share about N&S. I submitted an article to Keith in the last spring of 2007. It was an article about the civil-military conflict between Rear Admiral Samuel Francis Du Pont and Gideon Welles over the ironclad attack on Charleston in April 1863. The article was adapted from my book, “Lincoln’s Tragic Admiral: The Life of Samuel Francis Du Pont,” UVa Press, 2005. I should have realized that something was not quite right when he “misplaced” several copies of the article, always asking for “just one more.” He told me via e-mail that the article might make a good addition to the magazine. I didn’t hear from him again for months. Imagine my surprise when in June 2008 my article appeared in print in N&S. I never signed a contract, never gave him permission to print the article, never had a chance to do a final proofreading, and was not given the opportunity to review the final copy before printing. He also got my title wrong in the author’s bio. I still don’t know where he got that. Oh, and it goes without saying that I never got paid. In fact, I have no idea if he ever paid anything anyway. I never received a copy of the magazine and even missed it on the newsstands. Needless to say, it was not a good experience.

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  13. John

    I think it’s s disgrace what’s become of North & South magazine. I had to call their number and the man who received said call when asked if it was the number for N&S said “Yeah -in a roundabout way.” Then he told em the next issue is going out at the end of this month. I haven’t gotten one in about four months. Then, they have the b*lls to offer a life time membership for $150? The audacity of the fiefdom running that magazine is an embarrassment.
    John

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  14. Patrick

    Hello,
    I am a Civil War historian and have books by many of the aforementioned writers. I just got my subscription due notice today and am hesitant to re-up, certainly long-term. I, too, had to call over a year ago to see what was the hold-up and talked to an Englishman.
    The fact that the writers don’t get paid on time or at all is insulting, embarrassing, and disgraceful. I think the magazine really sucked about 18 months ago but has slowly gotten better. Did he really take up with a Chinese broad or is that hear-say?
    Pat

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    1. Kevin Levin

      I also received my subscription notice in the mail today, which I will not be renewing. I much prefer Civil War Times.

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  15. Donald E. Collins

    Two years since my article appeared in North and South, and still not paid for it. Keith Poulter seems like a nice enough person, but he is haphazard in dealing with authors. I now advice historians not to submit to his magazine. I recently sent an article to Civil War Times. Hopefully, it will be a better experience. If not, I will go with the CHAB News published by the Confederate Historical Association of (Brussels) Belgium. It mostly does reprints, but it is a nice group, publishes articles with little wait, and does a good job of illustrating them. No pay, but worth working with.

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    1. Kevin Levin

      I had two articles published in Civil War Times in 2010 and both experiences were positive. I have no doubt that you will experience the same.

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  16. Dan Williams

    I have noticed a sharp decline in the publication since inception.
    It has also taken a close swipe at being political.
    I enjoy the earlier issues as good reference material.
    I will soon be looking for new sources.

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  17. John Rio

    I paid for subscriptions to Military Chronicles magazine last October,2010. I received one back issue which I ordered but no yearly subscription which I paid. All I got was promises, even though Poulter cashed my check. I use to get N&S but I am glad I did not renew but he got me on Military Chronicles. No e-mails or answers to my calls. I filed a complaint with postal investigators but have not heard anything. They said only when the get numerous complaints will they act. Another agency that does not have time to follow up complaints of fraud. I am out $38.00 but now I don’t trust any magazine except the few I still receive.

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    1. Kevin Levin

      I’m sorry to hear that. Poulter’s reputation hit rock bottom long ago in my estimation. I stopped reading N&S two years ago.

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      1. John Rio

        Thanks Kevin: I was clueless about the problems with N&S and thought it was just me or some clerical problem. Thanks to this site I now have a picture how things really are. John

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  18. Lonnie Harbaugh

    Website is down now,what happened? Was trying to inquire about a magazine subscription. Are they out of business?

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      1. Lonnie Harbaugh

        Yea,I was doing some reading.Sad actually,seems like it may have been a useful magazine and website.

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        1. Kevin Levin

          I highly recommend Civil War Times. Dana Shoaf has done an excellent job since taking over editorial responsibilities.

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          1. Shawn Prouty

            I am curious to how much does a person earn for writing a article in a Civil War magazine, on the average?

            Thank you, Mr. Levin for any help!

            Shawn Prouty

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            1. Kevin Levin

              Hi Shawn,

              It really depends what kind of article you are writing. Featured essays tend to pay more since they are lengthier. My recommendation is to contact the editor of the magazine for more specific prices.

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                1. Kevin Levin

                  Yes, you will excuse me if I’ve made a choice not to disclose the terms of my contracts with CWTs. I have no idea if rates are uniform so do yourself a favor and contact the editorial staff. Better yet, why not write something that is worthy of publication before you worry about how much you are going to get paid.

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                  1. Patrick Hansbury

                    I’m not worried at all. The magazine went under. By the way, Civil War Times is for Middle School libraries. Please don’t try and pump up a publication that is second-rate. You probably don’t want to “disclose” your relationship with that magazine.

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                    1. Kevin Levin

                      Than why are so worried about the rates for CWTs? By the way, that statement is utterly ridiculous. I suggest you take your complaints elsewhere as I see no need to continue this thread. Thanks for stopping by.

              1. Shawn Prouty

                My research team and I dig very deep at the National Archives and Library of Congress, for the past Eleven years. The late Brian Pohanka, back in April 2000, showed me where to find everything. I am the leading authority on captured Union colors, I also work on captured Union artillery as well.

                What we have found is very interesting and no human has found letters we have discovered at the NA. It will be very very controversial and many of my research team members fear their life if published. Money is not in issue, as all of us are officers in the US. Army. We have found the real truth.

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                  1. Shawn Prouty

                    We think that nobody would believe us on our finds. We traded emails and we believe it would do more harm then good for the Civil War industry. We have found a letter written by Abraham Lincoln, that has never been published and never will be published. Lincoln wrote who was really behind the war, what they would do to him and his wife and children. All of us have a copy (I have made several). Very interesting on who Lincoln pointed the finger to, that really started the war. It was not the North nor South.

                    If Mr. Shoaf is curious, please ask him to send me an email. I will type the letter to him and just ask to keep it very confidential.

                    Thank you, Mr. Levin

                    Have a great day,

                    Shawn Prouty

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      1. Donald E. Collins

        A friend who is often published by Civil War Times and their affiliated publications told me that that publishing group prefers to use its own stable of authors. I understand it pays surprisingly well, but it makes it hard for others to get articles accepted. I sent an article several months ago that was rejected because the topic was too narrow, and illustrations would be hard to find. The article was on a Union revenge raid around Lake Mattamuskeet in North Carolina. I don’t buy the “narrow” argument, but I do agree that illustrating it would be extremely difficult. So, my article will be in the December issue of the CHAB News (Confederate Historical Association of Belgium News). I am satisfied with that.

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        1. Kevin Levin

          You definitely will find a small group of regular authors at CWTs, but that should not prevent anyone from submitting their work. I am not a regular author and I’ve had a very positive experience with two recent featured articles. The editorial staff is first rate. If the work is solid it will be given serious consideration by Dana Shoaf and the rest of the team.

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    1. Shawn Prouty

      You will find me on the “Civil War Flag Message Board”. Everyone on there is the top experts on Civil War flags. I am working on the first ever book on “Captured Union Colors”. Which is not easy, for Union regimental commanders rarely admitted to losing a color. The late Brian Pohanka was a huge help by pointing out where to find everything at the National Archives/Library of Congress.

      Please come visit us, just google “Civil War Flag Message Board”.

      Thank you,

      Shawn Prouty

      I

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      1. Victor

        It’s a shame to read about North and South. My local Barnes and Noble still carries it, so it’s still afloat, and they have a website now. Can anyone provide an update? Have things improved over there? I have an article I’d like to see published and it seems like it would be a good fit with that magazine (though it deals with the early Reconstruction period more than the war itself), but after reading this page I think I’d be better off looking elsewhere.

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        1. Patrick

          Victor,
          This thread has been going on for a while. North & South has certainly improved its game over the last couple years. Another solid scholarly publication is the “Journal of the Civil War Era” by UNC Press. Don’t waste your time with Civil War Times. That Kevin is in cahoots with them, although he won’t disclose how much they pay, and, trust me, its a rag as far as history/ Civil War publications are concerned. They have that magazine in 6th grade libraries. To call that rag a work of scholalry merit is a slap in the face.

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          1. Kevin Levin

            What a ridiculous comment. N&S and the JCWE are two very different publications. One is a popular magazine and the other is an academic journal.

            That Kevin is in cahoots with them, although he won’t disclose how much they pay..

            I am sure the editor of the magazine would love to learn that we are in cahoots. Since when does anyone have an obligation to disclose a private writing contract?

            Civil War Times is also not a scholarly publications. It’s a popular magazine that includes some rather good articles by some very talented professional and popular historians. Get a life, dude.

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  19. Patrick

    “Get a life, dude.” Now this vernacular is more in line with what I would expect from a writer that free-lances for the subpar scholarship and subscription numbers associated with CWT. You may draw parallels between N&S and CWT as “popular magazines” but there is no comparison between the two as far as the quality of the academic levels of the professional historians that contribute to N&S and the rag-tag bush-league dime-a-dozen rank amateurs that submit to CWT (I’m thinking $200 a story…maybe.)
    Here’s another difference: 32 of the 82 pages within the covers of June 2011 issue (when I cancelled my subscription) of Civil War Times had advertisements on them. A whopping 39%! (That is a lot of space dedicated to trying to hawk replica brogans or stupid little plastic soldiers that we gave up playing with at age 5.) Now compare that to 4 pages with advertisements out of 64 pages within the cover and a miniscule 6% for the March 2012 issue of N&S. To N&S’s credit, they hold a much higher degree of professional standards and will not whore themselves out for a dime like the rag CWT.
    Here’s one last bit of free advice for Mr. Levine: the speed with which you respond to comments goes a long way to proving it is you, sir, who needs a life.

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  20. Patrick

    What have I done? (I didn’t know this was about me.) What I have done is RENEW my N&S while letting my CWT subscription elapse.

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      1. Donald E. Collins

        Regardless of content, I have other criticism of both magazines. As to North and South, I still have not been paid for a 2008 article, and I assume that contacting Keith Poulter is a waste of time. Also, Keith never sent me a copy of my own article until a month after it appeared on the news stand, and I had to buy my own. My criticism of Civil War Times is less direct, and perhaps unjustified. However, a good friend who writes for CWT, and who is sometimes approached by it, told me that it has a stable of regular writers and so it is harder to get them to accept new ones. I also was quite surprised at just how much CWT does pay for reviews, articles, etc. I no longer read either. By the way, I think the comments in this series need to be a bit more civilized.

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