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Letter - From the June 26, 2006 issue by Staff

Tell us what you REALLY think ...



In a recent online survey, we asked readers, "Is there anything you’d like to tell the staff that might help improve High Country News?" Here are some snippets from the more than 700 comments we received, in the order they came in.

You guys rock. I use HCN in my Environmental Policy class as required reading. Keep up the good work. … After my initial shock, I like the new format, feels good to hold and I enjoy the color. … I appreciate the mix of "big" articles rotating month to month between social issues, environment (water, timber, energy), and political. … While I agree with many of the views espoused within HCN, you must ensure that your actual news articles do not become editorial in nature, or you’ll end up little better than a liberal version of Fox News. ... Keep up the good work — I even got my DAD hooked on HCN, and he’s a Bush supporter!! … I’ve had enough; I moved to Canada. I will be letting my subscription run out unless you begin covering the "High Country" of Canada. … I live in Alpine, Texas. You should include our area in your coverage. We don’t belong in Texas. ... I renewed my subscription recently after having let it lapse after Ed Marston left. I felt at that time that HCN had lost some of its revolutionarily pragmatic, reasonable, and balanced approach and was in danger of becoming another True Believer enviro voice. I’m glad to see that that hasn’t happened, but I’d like to see more coverage of collaborative efforts. ...

I feel the newspaper has gone downhill in the last few years — particularly with fewer articles and less news per issue. ... I think HCN is published TOO frequently. Once a month would be plenty. ... More! More! More! Where else can I see left-leaning environmentalist libertarians who KNOW what’s wrong with the economy right alongside policy wonks and academics concerned about the fate of the ecological West? ... HCN does publish a few articles about my home state of South Dakota — if they are generally of an uncomplimentary nature. This stinks. ... I love the back page! ... I would very much like to see more coverage of Alaska. … HCN is the only publication I can honestly say I read cover to cover — and save the copies for future reference. … I really think that you need to include more information on the border states and provinces to your 11-state region including British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, west Texas, Chihuahua, Sonora and Baja. … Focus less on the Southwest and include more reports about the Northwest. …

"Find more common ground" should be a relentless message from HCN, both in your reporting and editorials. … Population growth is the cause of essentially all of the problems in the West. This needs to be repeated in every story about problems. … Once in a while, have an article about rural high country living somewhere other than the American West, that describes the similarities and differences in issues (Australia, South America, Western Canada, other places I’m not smart enough to know about). … HCN is no longer balanced. After Marston retired and Larmer took over, there was a big swing to strong opinion and away from balance and observation. So I vote against it by saying goodbye, after reading since Bell ran it! … I would love to see a segment in each issue detailing one smallish Western town and the current issues affecting that town. I’d nominate Farmington, N.M., as the first town. … I work for the BLM and we are actually doing some really good things too. Look into it! … Go after our (Idaho) congressional delegation. They are pro-extraction, pro-road, pro-snowmobile. And it might get worse! …

Mix it up more — let’s see some articles on Second Amendment absolutists, shamans, psycho snowboarders, haute restaurateurs, polygamists, Sturgis motorcylers, dog psychics, retired Army colonels and bluegrass musicians. They (we) are the region, too — not everything has to be 100 percent wonked up. … I’m not interested in reading about drug problems, addiction, violence, social problems — that sort of thing. I used to let my son read HCN, but now I find I have to read it first to make sure it’s age-appropriate. ... I particularly like stories on what specific Westerners are doing to save and improve the West. The human touch adds so much to stories, and "gloom and doom" stories get tiresome after a while. ... I’m a Colorado native and a member of an Indian tribe with a law degree. It’d be nice to have more diversity and diverse journalists. ... I usually manage to both laugh and get righteously ticked off by any issue of HCN. So please don’t mess with it too much. ... I like that there is no real advertising. HCN is a breath of fresh air in a "gotta have it" world. ... Your forays into Western culture, though some have criticized them, are a good direction because water issues, etc., exist in a social context. ... Too many human interest stories lately, too few about public lands. ... Let’s call HCN "progressive" or "environmentally concerned" or a publication which deals with "quality of life issues," but not radical. What you are talking about should be mainstream, and IS in more educated regions of the country. So stop apologizing for it!. ... I’ve done a lot of pissin’ people off throughout my career and, although I have found such efforts personally satisfying, they haven’t served me particularly well. I think that you folks there at HCN may have concluded much the same. ... I am one of the old goats who liked HCN more in its old black-and-white, less slick form. No more "upgrades," please. ... Keep up the good work — don’t let the Neanderthals get you down. ... Avoid the temptation to be flip/smug/snarky. Plenty of bad news to report straight up; don’t preach to the choir. ...

Include more hard-hitting articles about wildlife issues. ... More archaeology articles, please. ... I’m very interested in seeing the development of wind and solar power and would like more stories about that. ... You are too good to be true and I’m scared of hexing the whole thing by talking about it! ... Stop with the musing (and incredibly boring) personal essays and the "White Guilt" cover stories on gangbangers and junkies. They have nothing to do with HCN’s purpose. ... The depth of the reporting has improved in the last two years. It’s as if you wish to be taken seriously. ... This last issue was a little thin. I got through it in about an hour. Now I have to wait a while to get more HCN. ... Part of balanced coverage is also balancing the locations you choose to cover — yes, I know all the cool rich environmentalists have fled the cities or at least prefer their rural second homes to the ones in the cities where they actually live and work, but urban issues are important and have a huge impact on the rural as well. ... Stop trying to be balanced to the conservative viewpoint, that’s what all of the mainstream media covers. ... HCN has, in recent years, treated ranching rather gently. Culture is NOT history; it is something we create every day. Rather than trying to re-enact a highly imagined past, we should focus our efforts on creating a culture to match the scenery (to steal a phrase). ...

Please, please continue to focus on the politics behind what happens in the West! Despite the fact that more "conservative" (whatever that means) readers seem to take offense, I think it’s important to keep shining a bright light on the effects of federal policies. ... You all are my media heroes. ... Try for a little balance, difficult as it might be. As it is, you come across as shrill and wild-eyed. ... I would like to see more in-depth, locally oriented investigative reporting on issues affecting local communities, like (diminishing) access to public lands and waters, abuse of water rights. Some of your coverage of state and national topics just plain gets monotonous. ... I thought the "Gangs of Zion" issue was really important, because I think the exploration of the cultural changes in the West is very important. I’d love to see a similar issue devoted to "transplants" from California to other states. ... The article on illegal aliens was well balanced. Not for or against but just plain good reporting. ...

I get angry, happy, motivated, ennui, and hopeful reading HCN! It is a difficult world, and I wish I had the brain of my dog most of the time! ... I especially appreciate your efforts to connect place, culture, and economy. However, as a Lutheran pastor, I need to respectfully say that you guys (like most news people and the Democratic Party) don’t know very much about religion and/or spirituality and the role it plays in motivating people’s attitudes and politics around environmental issues. ... Maintain the good balance that you already have — if you’re pissing off both extremes, you’ll know you’re doing a fine job. ... The oil and gas boom and population influx is knocking ranchers and hunters to the left. If those on the left can get past their hatred of blood and cow pies, the union could whup some butt politically. ... I hardly knew what to make of the cartoon on the back page of the May issue. A cowboy standing over a dead man saying "I had to do it. He was grilling zucchini." Huh? I, too, grill zucchini, brushing it first with olive oil and then sprinkling on Parmesan near the end. It goes great with elk steaks. Does HCN believe it owes its existence to the culture wars? ...

Enough grazing articles. There’s only so many ways to slice a cow or an allotment. ... I am a public-lands interpreter and would be lost without HCN. My dad cancelled his subscription because it made him want to die of sorrow every two weeks, but I find HCN very inspiring. ... Thanks to your paper, my 81-year-old father has become more environmentally aware. He has even changed how he votes. You have done what I could not do in 20 years of trying. ... "Edgy" is good, but an apparent continued decline in fact-checking is making this a much less useful publication. ... I manage the largest cattle ranch in Wyoming and eagerly await each edition of High Country News. ... We are rapidly heading in the direction of the rural West becoming snowboarding/rock climbing/mountain biking/dining out destinations. Too many of the aficionados of these destinations have no regard for the environment. ... If your view seems biased to some of your readers, I would remind them that the truth usually hurts. ... In Germany, the woods are called der Wald. A young Canadian friend and I both commented that "wild (Wald) is just exactly what it’s not." The West is heading that way. Don’t let it happen. ... I don’t ranch, raise cattle, have water rights, hunt or mine. But I do backcountry ski, hike and climb. And I’ve found your stories on climbing and its environmental impacts not jiving with my personal experiences as a climber for 30 years. ...

You are much too easy on the worst administration in the country’s history. I am an ex-Republican. The party I used to know is bankrupt and yes, even evil. ... I work as a nurse practitioner in a very remote, isolated clinic. We have many issues, but I have never seen anything on health care in HCN. ... I would like more articles about the West’s prison population, growth of building new prisons, and what’s being done to rehabilitate and educate the offenders. ... It seems to me that you’ve become a lot more centrist in the past few years. I really appreciate your advocacy positions to provide the pro-environment point of view. ... The last issue (immigration) was the worst ever, and I’ve been a reader of your publication for 20 years. Omitting your sub-feature articles should be a cause for the current publisher and editor to look for new jobs. ... Keep on trying new things — don’t get stodgy! Don’t worry if you ruffle a few feathers now and then. ... My name is Tom. I am addicted to the Rocky Mountain West. ... After all these years, I’m still enjoying and getting a lot out of HCN!

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