A lesson the First AmendmentWriter and naturalist Terry Tempest Williams came to western Colorado in early October for the 24th annual meeting of the Western Colorado Congress. She spoke to a packed auditorium about the "open space of democracy." Williams, who just published a book by the same name, talked about the differences that have divided this country so drastically over the last four years. Then she asked the crowd of environmental activists to seek out its adversaries and speak with them, listen to them, and find a new space from which both sides can move forward together.
Williams was recently asked not to speak at Florida Gulf Coast University, where she had been scheduled to talk to the incoming freshman class about freedom of speech. University President William C. Merwin explained that many of his regents, trustees and donors have close ties to Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, the brother of the president — and Williams has been an outspoken critic of the president. Merwin suggested Williams visit after the upcoming presidential election and, she says, added, "If you come back on Nov. 4, I’ll pay you more."
Newspaper or magazine?Fourteen members of the High County News board of directors headed to Portland, Ore., in late September. Much of the discussion at the board meeting focused on HCN’s journalism. Editor in the Field Ray Ring told the board that he is always on the lookout for stories missed by the mainstream press. Ring’s idea for his recent cover story on life in the natural gas boomtown of Wamsutter, Wyo., came on a cross-country trip, while he was filling up his tank at one of the town’s truck stops. His curiosity was further piqued later when he read a brief news clip about a nasty bar fight in the town.
The discussion of journalism provoked questions from several board members: Is HCN a newspaper or a magazine? And does the answer to this question provide direction for HCN’s evolution? Boulder, Colo., board member Felix Magowan, who publishes several magazines, including VeloNews, which is about bicycle racing, says HCN should embrace its "magazineness," with an even bolder design.
Executive Director Paul Larmer says that while he and the staff are eager to continue improving the design, he likes the fact that HCN is a hybrid, with timely news stories and longer magazine-style pieces. The board directed the staff to lay out its vision for the HCN of the future by the next meeting in January.
Following the meeting, a lively group of readers descended on the Unitarian Church with a variety of tasty dishes. Readers suggested new ways of getting HCN into the hands of more students and activists, cautioned against getting "too slick," and tossed out dozens of story ideas on everything from Portland’s urban planning battles to the proliferation of snowmobiles in the Cascades. Special thanks to Bruce Silverman, who produced a short news piece on HCN for KBOO radio and then helped set up tables at the potluck.