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Know the West

Dear Friends


A first

If you wait long enough, 15 minutes of fame comes to every person and place. Paonia, Colo.'s, came in Nov. 22, when the nation's most highbrow magazine finally got around to featuring this small town.

The recognition is long overdue. Even though The New Yorker's founder, Harold Ross, was born just over the hill from here, in Aspen, until writer Nicholas Lemann came along, the magazine had studiously ignored Paonia. No longer. "No People Allowed," Lemann's lemony portrait of the Center for Biodiversity, featured a photo of Kieran Suckling. And on Suckling's feet are Chaco sandals, which are manufactured in Paonia. The caption doesn't mention the sandals or where they're made, but our bet is that most readers of The New Yorker will immediately recognize them and their provenance.

Lo and behold

One of the joys of working at High Country News is interacting with the writers, photographers and illustrators who are the heart of this publication. Here, for example, is an e-mail from Bruce Selcraig, who freelances out of Austin, Texas:

Dear HCN,

A delightful, almost spiritual thing happened today. I was going through an old file about Rio Grande water quality, in anticipation of a story I'm doing for you, and I found the story I did for you guys in the June 13, 1994, issue about the high school students who tested the Rio Grande water all up and down the river on one day each spring. And, lo and behold, stuck to a Xerox of the story was an uncashed check for $180 from you.

I just want to know: Can I cash this without sending HCN accountants into convulsions?


We told Bruce that the businesslike approach was to send the check to us so that we could cut him a new check. As you can see from his note, Bruce was a little reluctant, but he finally graciously complied with what seemed to him a huge amount of red tape. Which is why he's a writer (an excellent writer) and not, let's say, an accountant.

An HCN medal for the secretary

When Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt traveled to Colorado National Monument near Grand Junction (see Hotline on facing page), Radio High Country News producer Adam Burke was there with a microphone, a copy of the Nov. 22 High Country News with its lead story about Babbitt's intention to ask President Clinton to protect land through the Antiquities Act if consensus-collaboration fails, and a High Country News sweatshirt.

Babbitt was struck by the shirt. "Ten years ago, your publisher wouldn't give me a complimentary subscription. Now he's giving me a free sweatshirt."

We don't hand out free stuff to just anyone. It's our version of the Congressional Medal of Honor, or perhaps the Purple Heart, both of which Babbitt has earned during his seven years as secretary of Interior. Of course, we know that as a newspaper, we should not be handing out medals, or even T-shirts, to public officials. We're journalists, and our franchise is to search out the worst in public officials and ignore everything else. Thinking highly of Babbitt undoubtedly threatens our credibility.

But we're in good company. Michael Lewis, writing in the New York Times Magazine for Nov. 21, 1999, confessed to having fallen into the trap of admiring Republican presidential candidate John McCain. Lewis said he didn't care for all of McCain's policies. But he admired the man's determination to open himself up to the media and other observers. McCain, Lewis believes, is trying to run for president without losing his humanity. That's hard, Lewis wrote, because today's journalistic creed insists that reporters treat public officials as suspects in some yet-to-be discovered crime.

A positive review

At first, Joe Arnett thought he would just dash off something for Douglasia saying what a great newspaper High Country News was. He knew it by reputation, and had read it now and again over the years. Then a sense of his responsibility as a new contributing editor to the newsletter of the Washington Native Plant Society kicked in. He decided to take a closer look.

He started by reading Edwin Dobb's article on Butte miners titled, "Mining the past," in the June 7, 1999, issue. It's the perfect article for someone who believes, as Arnett does, that natural resource issues are not black and white. He loved Dobb's article. He was less impressed by an article on a land exchange. "High Country News presented blocking the exchange as a victory, as it was for its opponents, without mentioning the environmental benefits that might thereby be lost. The slant of the article weakened HCN's credibility slightly in my opinion."

Then High Country News came roaring back. "It was probably a lengthy article by Stephen Stuebner about Jon Marvel and the Idaho Watershed Project that most made me feel uncomfortable, and at the same time most convinced me of the high quality of HCN reporting." Marvel, Arnett wrote, "... is depicted as trampling on grazing practices that have undoubtedly trampled on a lot of public lands, but he doesn't spare people that I think are deserving of respect. He may ultimately be successful at bringing a higher level of protection to grazing lands in the West, but has also inspired a backlash that has led to private land getting posted, and increased hostilities between "us' and "them'."

Arnett ends the review by saying he is going to subscribe, and he urges readers of Douglasia who want a careful examination of complex challenges and who "can stand the discomfort of looking at conflict" to also subscribe.

Douglasia, which goes to 1,800 readers, and its editor, Richard K. Robohm, can be reached at 963 N. Motor Place #4, Seattle, WA 98103-7336 (206/545-1823); [email protected]


Professor Don Sullivan and his Denver University physical geography class took time off from their field work on the nearby Grand Mesa to join HCN staffers at an evening cookout. The class agreed unanimously that field trips are a far, far better way to learn than classrooms.

In addition to Don, the class included Charles Farmer of Knoxville, Tenn., Rebecca Clark of Denver, Isaac Lynn of Springdale, Ark., Melanie Ransmeier of Roanoke Rapids, N.C., Michael Grealy of Littleton, Colo., Robyn Powers of Las Vegas, Nev., Sarah Shaikh and Abbey Abley of Cleveland, Ohio, Eileen Ernenwein of Inlet, N.Y., Melissa Chambers of Kansas City, Mo., Wallace Fisk III and Samuel West of St. Paul, Minn., and Shi-Hao Kuo of Taiwan.

High Country Business Journal

Karen Telleen-Lawton, who teaches an Internet-based MBA program out of Denver, although she lives in California, uses High Country News in her course to introduce management students to environmental topics. One student responded by writing: "High Country is a great Web site! Their articles are absolutely fascinating ..."

The High Country News Web site is located at www.hcn.org. Perhaps because of our new penetration into the world of business, visitorship recently jumped from 700 per day to 1,000 per day, Web editor Chris Wehner says.

Radio High Country News

Some of the Web site's 1,000 daily visitors may be using it to hear Radio High Country News, a half-hour weekly radio show, which can also be heard on KVNF Paonia, which is the co-producer of the program (6:30 p.m., Wednesdays); KZMU Moab at 6:30 p.m. Thursdays; KOTO Telluride at 6:15 p.m. Tuesdays; KDNK Carbondale at 4:30 p.m. Mondays; KGNU Boulder at 4 p.m. Mondays; KRCC Colorado Springs at 6:30 p.m. Tuesdays; KRZA Alamosa/Taos at 8:30 a.m. Mondays; KAFM Grand Junction at 5:30 p.m. Wednesdays; KRCL Salt Lake City and Park City at 5:30 a.m. Fridays; and KBUT Crested Butte at 4 p.m. Thursdays.

If you or your company might be interested in underwriting part of the program, please call radio producer Adam Burke or marketing director Steve Mandell at 970/527-4898.

* Ed Marston for the staff