Fifty years is a long time. And it can pass in the blink of an eye.
Paul Andre knows. It seems, in many ways, that September 1964 was just a few yesterdays ago. That was when Andre looked at the first issue of BEEF, and knew something good had begun.
Andre is BEEF’s founding editor, and the first of only two editors in the magazine’s 50-year history. He’s proud of that, and he’s proud of BEEF’s 50-year history of providing cattle producers with information and knowledge they can put to work to do better, be better and produce the best beef possible.
In many ways, Andre was a man ahead of his time. He knew, even then, that all money in the business comes ultimately from the consumer. And so, when he was hired to bring BEEF into existence, he set the editorial bar high — not only would the magazine provide cattle producers with information, innovations and trends in the business, it would encourage them to produce high-quality beef for consumers. That philosophy remains the editorial bedrock for the magazine today.
Andre hired on in April 1964, six months before the inaugural issue, with a solid background in ag journalism. He graduated from Iowa State University with a journalism degree and worked as associate farm editor at The (Cedar Rapids) Gazette, before doing a short stint with his alma mater’s information service. He was editor of Better Farming Methods magazine when he took on the challenge of bringing a new publication to life.
“I was given the opportunity to do all the planning, set the typeface, do all the writing, layout, with a free hand,” Andre remembers. “I had no idea on that first issue how much copy I was going to need.” So, he sent over so many articles that the printer ran out of space to store all the typeset copy. “I could have probably put three issues together,” he recalls.
Andre was given three years to make BEEF a success: either break even or turn a profit. Just one year after launching the publication, Andre pulled into the parking lot at the same time as the owner and president of Webb Publishing Co., which owned the magazine. “He said, ‘Congratulations. I got the statement for the September issue last night. We made a profit for the first time.’ So it always felt good that we celebrated the first anniversary with the first profit. And went on from there,” Andre says.
Initially, BEEF was designed to serve cattle feeders. “It was an interesting time, because at that time, Iowa was still the leading cattle feeding state. And that was the basic idea of the magazine: that it would serve the farmer-feeders throughout the Midwest, or anywhere else,” he says.
“There were a number of big feedlots at that time, but they were just beginning, on the cutting edge of really getting built,” Andre says. However, the large commercial feedyards didn’t consider themselves as part of the BEEF audience. “It took several years to overcome that, but eventually we did succeed and prove that we were for everyone who was feeding cattle,” he says.
Over the years, BEEF readership changed, and more cow-calf and stocker operators began reading the magazine. Today, the monthly circulation of almost 100,000 readers is 85% cow-calf. But Andre stayed true to his original editorial philosophies.
“My sole concern was whatever we did editorially was for our readers, and our readers were our first consideration. That was the philosophy I followed throughout my time with BEEF — my readers came first.” Andre says his obligation to readers was to be accurate. “I always felt we had to produce that in the magazine: accuracy and integrity.”
During his 30 years with BEEF, Andre met and became friends with many people. “I like to think in the years I was active, I could go anywhere west of the Mississippi and somewhere in a 100-mile radius, there was someone I had met somewhere along the line,” he says.
And there were many more he hadn’t met, but who still considered him a friend. He was once at a National Cattlemen’s Association meeting, walking down the hall, and a guy came to him and said “Hello, Paul.” “I didn’t recognize him whatsoever, but he obviously knew me,” Andre remembers. “I was about to ask him ‘I’m sorry, but who are you?’ when he said ‘We’ve never met, but you look exactly like your picture.’ ”
Looking back, that is what is most important to Andre: the many people he met and the many friends he made in the beef business. “Over all those years, I met so many good, solid people I’m proud to call my friends. That’s the best thing I can think of for my whole career — I met so many good, friendly people.”
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