Dear Friends

  • NEW ASSOCIATES: Greg Hanscom and a Diane Sylvaingoat

    Cindy Wehling

Summer break

Don't search your mailbox for a July 16 issue of the paper - it won't be there. Each summer HCNskips an issue to give our readers and staffers a small break. We'll be back on July 30.

The changing of the guard

For the first time in 17 years, High Country News has a new editor: Paul Larmer. He is, of course, a former intern, from 1984. Not having learned his lesson, he returned in 1992, this time with spouse Lisa Cook and daughter Zoe (son Zach was born soon after), and a degree in natural resource management from the University of Michigan.

He left behind a job as a media representative for the Sierra Club in San Francisco, and a life that had Lisa, a landscape architect, and Paul commuting in different directions, and occasionally asking, "Weren't you going to pick up the baby?"

He arrived in a town that had lost its only stoplight - the light wore out and the town couldn't afford to fix it. But there were lots of improvements. As an intern, Paul had "sat in a narrow hallway, pecking away at his writing with numb fingers." He returned to a new, centrally heated office to find the old typewriters gone and computers in their place.

Paul became a senior editor in what is a very narrow hierarchy. His big jump came in 1997, when he launched Writers on the Range with a large idea: To provide Western newspapers with the voices of Western writers. The idea was initially bigger than the reality, since there were only two charter subscribing newspapers.

Today, more than 500 columns later, WOTR has 63 subscribing papers with 1.8 million circulation and 20 other papers that use the op-ed columns on a per-piece basis. Most shocking, the service is already half supported by fees from the subscribing newspapers.

Paul takes over from Betsy Marston, who became editor in 1983, when HCN moved to Paonia from Lander, Wyo. She took over a well-edited, gracefully laid-out paper, with a fine reputation, but only 3,300 subscribers. She hands over to Paul a newspaper with 22,000 subscribers located in all 50 states.

What strengths did Betsy bring to the job? A sharp editing pencil, unflappability, a near-total lack of sentimentality, an always alert s--t detector, and a nose for what was important and interesting and fun. Betsy's ideal story combined all three of those elements.

During her reign, she turned out 400 issues of High Country News. In her new position, Betsy will take over Writers on the Range from Paul, will continue to write Heard around the West, and also be the voice of the weekly half-hour show, Radio High Country News.

The founding editor of High Country News was Tom Bell. He was succeeded by Joan Hamilton Nice, Marjane Ambler, Geoff O'Gara and then by Dan Whipple. So Paul is only the seventh editor HCN has had in its 31 years.

High Country News also has filled a position that has been vacant since Linda Bacigalupi left the paper: Associate Publisher. He is Greg Hanscom, a former editor of HCN, and, of course, a former intern. Greg will be responsible for general administration and for fund raising.

Greg grew up in Park City, Utah. He came to HCN as an intern in 1996 after graduating from Middlebury College. He then went to the University of Montana, Missoula, to pursue a degree in environmental studies. But he came back to High Country News in 1997, and served as Associate Editor before becoming Associate Publisher. Most recently, he was in charge of the series on the Rio Grande, and generally handled HCN's coverage of the Southwest and Montana.

Greg is married to Tara Thomas, who heads the Western Slope Environmental Resource Council, also in Paonia.

Telluride Ideas Festival

It is easy to poke fun at the West's ski resort towns. They have so much money compared to towns out in the flats, and they seem to have so many pretensions. But a day at the Telluride Ideas Festival in early June makes poking fun at Telluride, at least, a little more difficult. The title was intriguing: "Sustainability? Or To-hell-you-ride." But the idea behind it was simple and one that every community can identify with: Unless the people who work in Telluride can afford to live there, Telluride won't be a town. It will be a factory floor, where tourists are processed.

Not counting construction workers, an extraordinary 80 percent of the town's employees live in Telluride, and they have been with their employers for long periods of time. But housing prices are rising, and many employees live in houses they bought cheap decades ago, and that someday they may sell for large amounts.

The question is: Where will the future employees live? The answers varied from tourist condos that are no longer upscale enough for weekly visitors to subsidized in-filling of the downtown and even, controversially, to building on a part of the still-undeveloped valley floor.

The Ideas Festival, sponsored by the Telluride Institute and organized by John Lifton and Pamela Lifton-Zoline, held a similar event last year, titled "A town without locals?" For information, call 970/728-4402.

Our condolences

We were saddened to hear of the death on June 12 of Marge Miller, 47, of Fruita, Colo. She was the wife of Robert "Tad" Hutchins and the mother of Claire, 7, Alex, 5, and Rachel, 2. Marge was a water attorney, a board member of the Mesa County Water Association, and a recent president of the Fruita Rotary Club. But most of all, Martha Teas of Hotchkiss, Colo., tells us, "She was a devoted and loving mother and wife."

High Country News Classifieds