by Greg Hanscom
CHANGES AT HCN
High Country News is searching for its next editor in chief, following Editor Greg Hanscom’s announcement that he’ll be leaving us at the end of the year, after 10 years with the organization.
HCN’s former associate editor, Matt Jenkins, apparently got lost en route to California, where he was planning to set up shop as our California/Great Basin correspondent. He ended up in Grants Pass, Ore., where he’ll be West Coast correspondent instead, keeping an eye on California, Oregon and Washington. Send him hot news tips at email@example.com or P.O. Box 1415, Grants Pass, OR 97528.
"If this organization is going to meet its charge, it’s going to have to be diverse, because the West is becoming diverse." That’s how HCN Publisher Paul Larmer kicked off a recent Saturday, during which 30 staffers and board members explored every imaginable dimension of diversity — race, class, age, religion, etc. — under the tutelage of diversity consultant Angela Park. We then discussed how diverse HCN is at present, and how diverse we’d like it to be. Bottom line: Although we’re more diverse than some of us realized, we have a long way to go, particularly in the race department.
HCN is steeped in the worlds of journalism and environmental advocacy, both of which are overwhelmingly white. Board member Marc Sani, a publisher from California, said that one-third of the American public is now made up of minorities, but 40 percent of newspapers have no journalists of color. Dan Luecke, a board member and a longtime environmental activist, said that the environmental movement has failed miserably in its efforts to become more racially diverse. "HCN can play an important role in dragging environmental organizations into something they pay lip service to," he said.
Board member Luis Torres said it’s possible. He co-founded a remarkably diverse green group, the National Network of Forest Practitioners (HCN, 11/8/04: New ways to work in the woods). "Inherently, we human beings see the benefit of diversity," he said.
Several staffers pointed out that bringing racial diversity to the HCN staff will be tough in mostly white, rural Colorado. Web Editor Paolo Bacigalupi described how difficult it has been for his wife, Anjula Jalan, whose parents emigrated from India, to live in Paonia (HCN, 2/3/03: Living on the sharp edge of diversity). "If we truly want diversity," he added, "we have to be ready to interact with people who are truly different than ourselves."
Several people mentioned that we could start by including a greater diversity of opinions in the newsmagazine and our Writers on the Range column syndicate. "Should we bring in a bunch of oil and gas drillers?" asked board member Andy Wiessner. Sure, said fellow board member Mark Harvey: "We are excluding a huge body of knowledge from this culture."
We left the meeting with heads full of questions, mainly about where HCN needs to go from here. For starters, we’ll continue to reach out to racially diverse freelance writers, and use a broad range of sources in our stories. A special committee, made up of staffers and board members, will chart a path from there.