Dear friends

 

SURPRISE!

The West, as we like to say around here, is more than just a pretty picture. It is a growing, changing, contentious and often uncomfortable place where society’s decisions, for better or worse, are writ large on the landscape. We pride ourselves on finding the stories behind the scenery and telling them well through the written word.

But the pretty pictures help tell the story, too, and that’s one reason that you’re holding in your hand the first full-color issue of High Country News, printed on a brighter (yet 30 percent post-consumer recycled) paper stock. The change is largely due to the prodding of HCN publisher Paul Larmer and the diligence of production assistant JoAnn Kalenak. Paul and several members of HCN’s board of directors have been pushing hard to get the visual quality of High Country News up to par with that of its words, and to make it physically robust enough to withstand the many hands that turn the pages of each copy. JoAnn spent almost six months searching for a print house that could do quality color at an affordable price. We ended up choosing Publication Printers in Denver, Colo., which previously printed HCN.

With the higher-quality printing, it will cost $2,000 more to print the 26,000 copies we distribute every two weeks. But we’re confident the investment will pay off. Color ads fetch more than black-and-white ones, and we’re working more aggressively to fill our limited ad space. (Not to worry, our ad policies remain the same: We limit ads to roughly 15 percent of the paper, and screen for environmental and social responsibility.) We also think the improved production quality will allow us to tell the stories of the West in more compelling ways, attracting a wider audience.

We hope you’re as excited about it as we are. Let us know what you think at editor@hcn.org.

LESSONS IN STORYTELLING

The look of the paper isn’t the only thing we’re trying to improve. We’re also working hard to tell better, fresher stories. To that end, a couple of talented and generous souls just spent two days coaching the editorial staff.

Jacqui Banaszynski is a veteran of the daily news world, who won the Pulitzer Prize in 1988. She covered the environment at the Register-Guard in Eugene, Ore., and later supervised environmental coverage at the Oregonian. Today she is the associate managing editor at the Seattle Times, and teaches at the University of Missouri and the Poynter Institute.

Don Nelson has spent much of his 30-plus-year career at niche and alternative publications, trying to out-do the big dailies. He got his start at the Register-Guard, and has done stints at the Pioneer Press in St. Paul, Minn., and as editor of the Puget Sound Business Journal. He is now editor of the Skagit Valley Herald, north of Seattle.

The duo donated their valuable — and already overbooked — time, and gave us tips on how to "wild up the wonk," as Jacqui puts it. They also offered some advice on how to keep scooping the big-city papers, which are (thankfully) doing a better job than they once did of covering regional and environmental issues.

A huge thanks to Jacqui and Don.