Dear Friends

  • CHANGING TIMES, CHANGING COVERS: High Country News cover from 1973

  • High Country News covers from 1977, 1979, 1980, 1983, and 1985


This isn’t the first time …

Just when you think you’re doing something really revolutionary, you learn it’s all been done before. In preparation for redesigning High Country News, we dug back into the archives to see what the paper has looked like over the 33 years of its existence. It turns out this won’t be HCN’s first face-lift.

The paper got its start, after all, as Camping News Weekly. The covers of the 1969 and 1970 issues sported photos of the "camper of the week" — truckbed campers, Airstream trailers, homespun houses on wheels, and in at least one instance, a curvaceous "camper" sporting naught but a bikini and a bouffant. "We were desperate," explains the photo caption. "Our field editor was supposed to come back from his Salt Lake trip with all sorts of camper-type pictures. Instead, he shows up with a whole roll of film with this girl sunbathing … " The front-page headline for that issue was, "Camping: The Modern Way To 'See America First.' "

The premier issue of High Country News hit the streets on Jan. 30, 1970, with the headline "Hells Canyon Still Threatened," a photo of Smokey Bear being mobbed by sub-3-foot-tall admirers, a camper of the week, and the characteristic apology from the editor about the new look: "No, we haven’t forgotten or dismissed the many thousands of recreationists and vacationers who go afield in their campers and tents. There will still be news of places to visit, things to do, interesting things to see, and adventurous activities in the Rocky Mountain West … We hope you will continue to like our product and will spread the news."

The look of the paper slowly morphed over the years. In the 1970s, for example, the editors added to the High Country News flag a map of the paper’s range, which, at the time, included Idaho, Montana, Utah, Wyoming and Colorado. (To think, now we get flak because we don’t include Texas in our definition of "the West.") An HCN goat made an appearance on the flag during the early 1980s, and the paper even grew a few inches in length back in 1982.

Other changes? The reporting has come a long way, and the bias is a little more subtle than it once was. One early headline read, "Rape of Western Lands Must Stop." The price has also gone up — back in ’69, you could have the paper, then produced weekly, "mailed anywhere in U.S." for a year, for five bucks. And somewhere along the way, we lost the camper of the week.

There has been one constant, though, and that is the passion that the HCN staff feels for the West, its communities and its landscapes. We hope that shines through in the newly designed paper that will hit your mailbox later this spring. And we hope you will continue to like our product and will spread the news …

In the next issue, we’ll give you a chance to weigh in on some of our new design ideas.

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