Dear Friends

 

A skipped issue

This is both the last issue of the year and the last issue for a month. In July and in early January, High Country News lets readers catch up on their reading and the staff catch up on their breathing. The next issue will be dated Jan. 15.

A new printer and mail house

For almost 30 years, the staff of High Country News has driven the flats for the paper to the printer, killed a few hours while the press crew did its thing, and then hauled the papers back to home base to be addressed and mailed. For most of the last 17 years, the printer has been the Glenwood Post, located just over the hill, 70 miles away, in Glenwood Springs.

At first, we brought the papers back in a 1984 Ford Tempo. But as circulation grew, the Tempo began to look like an airplane trying to take off, headlamps pointed above oncoming cars into the trees. Worse, the poor thing began to handle like a boat in high seas, even when there was no snow on the 8,755-foot-high McClure Pass.

So we found a series of brave people with pickups willing to make that biweekly run. Lately, even the stoutest pickup has had a problem with the load, and we've been renting small U-Haul trucks to carry the 23,000 to 30,000 issues (that's a couple of tons of newsprint) home.

But that didn't solve the entire problem. Unloading the truck when it returned from the printer, addressing the mountain of papers, and then getting them onto the local post office's modest loading deck got to be more and more difficult. We loved keeping the jobs and money in the community, but despite everyone's best efforts, it was no longer working. So this issue was printed in Denver and mailed out of a Denver mail house.

We've been transmitting the paper electronically to the Glenwood Post, so that part of it didn't bother us. But having "outsiders" address our paper is a bit like sending a child off to college for the first time. In part, that's because our mailing is complex. We have five separate lists, and each requires special handling. For example, if you don't renew your subscription, your next-to-last issue comes in a special envelope. And your last copy comes with a day-glo sticker. Bookstores and foreign subs also get special treatment, as do the few score to few hundred to thousands of samples we send out each fortnight.

So handing off the mailing is a big deal for us, and is an especially tense time for circulation manager Gretchen Nicholoff and her right-hand people, Kathy Martinez, Rita Murphy and Amy Alanko.

But while we have fears, we also have hopes. The newspaper will now be inserted directly into the postal system's mainstem river, instead of having to work its way to Denver via tributary streams. So you may get your paper a day or so earlier.

When they arrive, the papers may also look a little better. The Glenwood Post did a fine job. But they did not have the computer-controlled presses and the ability to keep on printing while paper rolls are changed. The Post also couldn't heat the paper after it had been printed to prevent smudging * something we may eventually experiment with.

We salt our mailing list with dummy names and addresses so that we will know when the papers arrive. But if you notice significant changes, we'd appreciate your letting us know, by e-mail to [email protected] or by phone, 800/905-1155.

Hello, Berkeley

A second change comes in early January, when HCN's editor and publisher move to California for four months to teach at the University of California at Berkeley's Graduate School of Journalism, in the school's Program in Environmental Journalism. Ed and Betsy Marston will team-teach the course "California's public lands: grappling with growth." Because we have never taught journalism before, we will run the course like the High Country News newsroom, with a heavy emphasis on reporting and writing and rewriting, and a light emphasis on lecturing.

Even though California, especially Southern California, is the fastest-growing part of HCN's subscriber list, we do little reporting on that state, partly for fear of being overwhelmed by the most populous state. That may now change. At the least, we expect to print some of the class's reporting.

The course is part of a continuing series initiated by Journalism Dean Orville Schell, and is under the direction of San Francisco Chronicle environmental writer Jane Kay, with funding from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation. The fall 2000 course is being taught by freelancer Sandy Tolan, with a focus on the U.S.-Mexico border. Earlier courses were taught by Edwin Dobb, a contributing editor to Harper's and writer for HCN, by Paul Rogers of the San Jose Mercury News, and Marla Cone of the Los Angeles Times.

While the Marstons will be physically in Berkeley from early January to early May, they will be electronically in Paonia about half time, attending staff meetings by telephone and contributing their fair share of writing, editing, management and fund raising.

That's the theory. The reality will be that the staff will have more autonomy, and while there has been no unseemly haste, the editorial staff especially shows a certain eagerness to wave goodbye to the Marstons. Paul Larmer will be the editor on the scene, while marketing director Steve Mandell will handle day-to-day management.

Condolences

We were sorry to hear of the passing of Carolyn Murray Child, known to most people as Tee. She and her husband, Bob, had raised children and cattle on their ranch in Snowmass, Colo. She helped found the Basalt Library, was a founding member of the board of the Rocky Mountain Institute, and worked as a typesetter and proofreader at the Aspen Times. The native of New York City died on Oct. 7, 2000, in Vista, Calif., at age 76. A memorial service is planned for this summer. Bob Child, a former Pitkin County commissioner, can be reached at [email protected]

Correction

Subscriber Lyle Applefordof Seattle, Wash., tells us that a photo of the "welcome" sign to Anatone, listing the dogs and cats and people, should have identified the town as being in Washington, just over the border from Idaho. He knows because he went to high school there.

Counting your chickens

We've long thought that it's a good idea to count your chickens before the eggs hatch, just in case they fail to hatch. So we're pleased to announce that we're up for two awards in Utne Reader's Alternative Press Awards: one for "local and regional" reporting and one for "reporting excellence." We're hoping for at least one chicken.

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