High Country News is a hybrid - partly a creature of the marketplace and partly a nonprofit organization. The price of a subscription pays for our basic needs, but it is tax-deductible contributions to the Research Fund that put words on the paper, voices on the air, and electronic images at www.hcn.org.
Without the Research Fund, which provides 30 percent of our income, there would be no High Country News.
The fall Research Fund appeal should go into the mail at almost the same time as this issue. When they arrive is up to the post office.
We hope that you will read the letter and then join the 25 percent of your fellow readers who contribute each year to the Research Fund.
A pretty good party
Sometimes we wonder if High Country News is a newspaper that gives parties around the region, or a roaming party that puts out a newspaper. In any case, the Sept. 17 potluck in the Paonia town park was one of the best ever, right up there with a Salt Lake City party from the 1980s, a party held in a snowstorm in Santa Fe, and a more recent event in Socorro, N.M. More than 120 subscribers showed up to sample each other's food, to see who else subscribes to this quirky and unpredictable paper, and to stand around talking, eating and drinking deep into the evening. Speech-making is always held to a minimum, but board president Emily Swanson did take a couple of minutes to introduce her fellow board members and thank everyone for making the board feel welcome.
The event segued into the all-day, Sept. 18 meeting of the board of the High Country Foundation. Each meeting has its rhythms and concerns and discontents. Meetings earlier this year focused on the organizational shakeup HCN has experienced, as it goes from just publishing a newspaper reaching 20,000 subscribers to a multimedia operation that sometimes reaches over 2 million people. At those meetings, the board told the staff to hire an organizational consultant, to create job descriptions, to draw up an organization chart, and do the other things necessary for 20 or more people to work together with a minimum of friction.
That work is well under way, and most of the board approved of the progress. But board member Andy Wiessner, who is self-employed, saw orange, if not red. He fears that staff will spend all its time on organizational matters, and have no energy left to publish a newspaper. Other board members said they saw the danger, but thought that a little more structure wouldn't hurt us.
With that out of the way, the board spent the day gnawing on the question of how to mesh and support Radio High Country News, which goes to eight stations and is growing rapidly; Writers on the Range, with its 43 subscribing newspapers; the Web site (www.hcn.org), with its 700 daily visitors; and the news syndicate, which places articles from High Country News in scores of papers and a couple of magazines around the region.
A major concern was whether we are cannibalizing ourselves. Take, for example, the Roaring Fork Valley, from Glenwood Springs upstream to Aspen. Articles and columns from High Country News appear in several papers in that valley. Does that mean High Country News will begin to lose subscribers there? More generally, will the newspaper's appearance on the Web mean fewer subscribers everywhere?
Charging for access to the Web would make up for any loss, but board member Maria Mondragon-Valdez fears that a Web charge would lock out the poor and students.
The board also worried about the deficit the new media are creating for the paper, but was willing to give the staff time - a year or two - to make the conglomerate work.
In other action, the board added two new members: Terry Janis, who is with the Indian Law Resource Center in Helena, Mont., and Michael Fischer, the former head of the Sierra Club, who is now with the Hewlett Foundation in Menlo Park, Calif.
Board members at the meeting were president Emily Swanson of Bozeman, Mont., Farwell Smith of McLeod, Mont., Diane Josephy Peavey of Carey, Idaho, Dan Luecke of Boulder, Colo., Maria Mondragon-Valdez of San Luis, Colo., Brad Little, of Emmett, Idaho, Karl Hess Jr., of Las Cruces, N.M., Tom Huerkamp of Austin, Colo., Andy Wiessner of Vail, Colo., Caroline Byrd of Lander, Wyo., Maggie Coon of Washington, D.C., and Rick Swanson of Flagstaff, Ariz.
One reason for the success of the potluck was the generosity of the New Belgium Brewing Co. of Fort Collins, Colo. New Belgium was a good fit with us, because it is, or will soon be, wind-powered, as part of an attempt to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide its operations emit. The producer of Fat Tire Amber Ale also recycles or reuses some of its water and tries hard to be organic, although it confesses to having once sprayed the poison ivy on its grounds.
We also thank the Terror Creek Winery of Paonia, Stoney Mesa Winery of Cedaredge, the Carlson Vineyards of Grand Junction and the Rocky Hill Winery of Montrose for contributing wines. Western Colorado was founded in part on the growing of apples, peaches, pears and cherries. Now the semi-desert area has added grapes to the list. And we appreciate the Paonia Flower Shop's contribution of table centerpieces.
If you have always wanted to attend an HCN potluck - events which make the mountain-man rendezvous of old look tame - you can start planning now. In the year 2000, we will be in Las Vegas, Nev., on Jan. 21, Albuquerque on May 19, and Boise on Sept. 9. Readers in those cities who would like to offer advice on where to hold the potluck, where to hold the board meeting, or where to stay, can call Michelle Allen at 970/527-4898, or e-mail her at email@example.com.
HCN and every other periodical that uses the U.S. mails must publish an annual statement of circulation. Ours, on page 14, shows that total paid circulation for the Sept. 27, 1999, issue was 21,569. Last year's postal statement shows that the circulation for the Sept. 28, 1998, issue was 19,347, for a gain of 2,222, and a percentage increase of 11.5 percent.
A lavish book
We are grateful to Barb and Bill Voss, Terri Mandell, and museum director Rich Helm for organizing a reading by High Country News publisher Ed Marston at the Museum of Western Colorado in Grand Junction, Colo., on Sept. 24. The reading was from his 35,000-word essay on the West that appears in an outsized and beautiful book of photographs of Colorado. The collection is of sites as originally photographed by William Henry Jackson, run side-by-side with the sites as rephotographed by contemporary photographer John Fielder. Other essays in the book are by wilderness scholar Roderick Nash, author of Wilderness and the American Mind, and photographer Eric Paddock of the Colorado Historical Society.
The book is titled Colorado: 1870-2000, and is published by Westcliffe Publishers. The book will be sent gratis, and autographed if you want, to those who contribute to the Research Fund at the Associate, Steward, or Publisher's Circle levels. You can also buy the bookstore at better bookstores everywhere, or by calling High Country News at 800/905-1155. The price is $85.
Chuck Willer, who runs the Coast Range Association in Corvallis, Ore., came by with a series of handsome charts carrying horrifying information about his region's trees. Today's economic logic, as interpreted by Weyerhaeuser and others, results in a 30-year logging rotation. From the air, forested land may look healthy. But on the ground, the private lands along the coastal range are revealed as pygmy forests, cut down before the trees get close to their prime. Willer can be reached at 541/758-0225; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org; or P.O. Box 2250, Corvallis, OR 97339.
We also had two academic visitors. Steve Goodman, a doctor who does medical research at the University of Colorado, came by to say hello. And so did Bob Young, a retired professor from the University of Colorado. The natural resource economist is moderately famous because, back when he was at the University of Arizona, he tried to save Arizona from the Central Arizona Project by pointing out that the project would be an economic disaster for the state. Bob was with his wife, Lynn Young, who is a vice president for membership of the League of Women Voters. She is touring Colorado's smaller towns, helping to establish new chapters.
* Ed Marston for the staff