Dear Friends

  • INTO NEW MEDIA: Steve Mandell

    Cindy Wehling photo
 

Call for water


If you called the Paonia office in mid-July to order five copies of HCN's collection of water articles, Water in the West, please call again. We have the soft-bound collection of articles and the back issues you also asked for all packed. But we don't have your name and address. We apologize for losing it.

Out of the comfort zone

For years, the directors of the High Country Foundation have encouraged staff to do radio, and for years staff has told the board that it was already stretched thin. Staff must now feel less stretched, because on July 16 the hour-long Radio High Country News show debuted on Paonia's KVNF public radio station. We are told it was a lively show - anchor Betsy Marston interviewed staff member Paul Larmer on his recent tamarisk article, staffer Diane Sylvain read an essay, intern Jennifer Chergo talked about the Colorado initiative to rein in hog farms, and Ed Marston interviewed Forest Service Chief Mike Dombeck by telephone.

Part of the liveliness consisted of screechy feedback, callers who were cut off just as they were getting to their question, stray dial tones and chunks of dead air. We think a lot of listeners stayed with the program just to see what horrible mistake we'd make next.

Afterward, we comforted ourselves: "Hey, we learned a lot and we didn't even have to rehearse." Most of all, we learned that radio takes place in real time, unlike a newspaper, where every word is read and reread before it goes to the printer. Also, radio is in-your-face. KVNF's store-front studio allowed passersby to watch us sweat.

The good part was getting staff out of its comfort zone and into a medium we know little about. So far we have ventured into three areas that are not simply the newspaper: We've put five years of archives on the World Wide Web (www.hcn.org), the Writers on the Range Project distributes op-ed pieces to 22 subscribing newspapers, and now we're Radio High Country News.

Fascinating though the paper is, not everyone wants to read it. But the information and message it carries may be of interest to more people than will struggle with our medium. We hope to extend the paper's mission by expanding into new media.

A culture shift

Part of the changing face of HCN arrived in the office almost a month ago, in the person of Steve Mandell - our new director of marketing. We thought about disguising his function under a less inflammatory title, like director of outreach services. After all, that's the kind of spin you expect from marketing. But we decided to go with the truth.

We also toyed with simply describing Steve as a former member of the Seed editorial collective, a 1960s-era underground newspaper in Chicago; as a disc jockey for an underground rock 'n' roll FM radio station; and as a six-year veteran of the U.S. Steel Southworks Mill, where he was a member of a dissident faction within the United Steel Workers union that fought for the right to strike.

But his title as marketing director would be incomprehensible unless we also mentioned that he was a vice president of the advertising firm Wells, Rich and Green and most recently was marketing manager for Midas International in the Midwest. His steel-mill background was an advantage in advertising, he says: "Many of the other white-collar types were intimidated by the rough people who own Midas franchises. But after the steel mill, the franchise owners were pussy cats."

The first thing he noticed here is that when it comes to gender, HCN's clientele is similar to the people who drive into Midas shops for new mufflers: About 70 percent are male. One of Steve's tasks will be to learn if the percentage is simply a result of whose name happens to be on a family's checks, if it comes from this being a natural resource newspaper in the (mostly) male tradition of forestry and mining, if it mirrors the West's environmental movement, or if the paper is too left-brain.

We hired Steve because we hope to learn to use marketing as well as the cigarette companies use marketing. High Country News should be an easier sell; we don't kill our customers.

A new regional paper

Congratulations to Richard Beamish and his staff on the launch of the Adirondack Explorer, a regional paper covering the 6 million-acre (9,375 square miles) Adirondack Park in northwestern New York state. The park has 130,000 permanent residents and many of the issues found in the West: the tension between logging and recreation and between jet skis and quiet, the proposed reintroduction of wolves, and celebrities who don't think rules apply to them.

A one-year, 10-copy subscription costs $15. For more information, contact the Explorer, 36 Church St., Saranac Lake, NY 12983; 518/891-9352; [email protected]

Visitors

Gundars Rudzitis and Rosemary Streatfeild stopped by en route to Tucson from Moscow, Idaho, where he teaches geography at the University of Idaho. It is Gundars who years ago pointed out that counties with wilderness areas are population draws. Rosemary just completed a master's at the University of Arizona. She is an "information specialist," which is what some librarians are now called.

Former intern Patrick Dowd stopped by with his mom, Ann Mowat, of Bath, Maine. He is an Outward Bound instructor and will be on his way to Harvard University this fall in pursuit of a master's degree in education.

Charles and Becky Goff of Howard, Colo., stopped by. They are on sabbatical from Indiana State University to write a biology text for non-majors.

We ran into Larry and JoAnn Huff and Don and Carolyn Thompson of Grand Junction in the Paonia town park on the Fourth of July. The couples are not subscribers, but they taught us something about the environment: a use for tamarisk. They had a strong, ugly walking stick made out of the shrub. It was the first use we've seen for the invader that is taking over Western rivers.

Volunteers for HCN

When circulation staff member Rita Murphy put a modest notice in HCN asking for readers willing to distribute the paper at events, coffee houses, doctors' offices and other gathering spots, we were not sure what to expect. It is too early to say how this project will work, but at the moment we're overwhelmed. We don't have room in this issue to thank all 37 people who have volunteered thus far, but here's a start:

Matt Lindon of Park City, Utah; Dave Wicks of Colorado Springs; Scott Burgwin of Indianola, Wash.; Barry and Celeste Bernards of Escalante, Utah; Kathy Blackwelder of Boulder, Colo.; Linda Hoyer of Los Angeles; Jeanne Norton of the Izaak Walton League in Portland; Larry Mattson of Yakima, Wash.; Sharon and Dan Ritter of Idaho Partners in Flight in Hamilton, Mont.; Cindy Christensen of Corvallis, Ore.; Mary Leonard of Boulder, Colo.; Lynn Swearingen of Boulder, Colo.; Brian Wayson of Portland, Ore.; Eliza and John Schmidt of Pocatello, Idaho; Kevin Farrell of Olympia, Wash.; Mildred Walton of Richland, Wash.; and Guy Bailey of Sandpoint, Idaho.

We appreciate the help.

Correction

The July 20 article on economist John Baden, FREE and FREE's seminars for judges stated that the Ford Foundation had given a grant to FREE. The grant went to the Gallatin Writers Inc., a writers' organization also run by Baden. In addition, Burlington Resources and Amoco are former FREE board members, rather than present board members.

* Ed Marston for the staff

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