Dear Friends

  • SNEAK PEEK: We're not quite there yet, but we're getting closer to finalizing the look of the cover for the redesigned High Country News. At left are covers presented by Katherine Topaz, who is working with staff on redesigning our paper

  • Deb French


Your chance to weigh in

Spring is springing in Western Colorado, and work continues on the redesign of High Country News. We’re getting a stream of good advice from readers.

“HCN has made its mark by doing the kind of in-depth reporting that dailies now do less and less, and at the same time has watched its circulation go up while the dailies stagnate,” wrote veteran Arizona journalist Tony Davis. “Please don’t kill the goose that laid the golden egg.”

Bill O’Connor called from Phoenix to say that it’s not our look that’s preventing us from reaching younger readers. (“I’m 25,” he said, “so I’d consider myself a younger reader.”) The problem is that young folks don’t know about us, he said. Whatever we do, he urged us, “Don’t change the maps!”

And this sage advice from Telluride, Colo., humorist Lou Bendrick: “Make sure it’s the right size to fit on the toilet tank.”

We wanted to give all of you a chance to put in your two cents. Above, you’ll see three of the cover designs we’ve been working on — ranging from the subtly to the drastically different. We’d love to hear your thoughts about what works, what doesn’t, and why. Drop us a postcard or an e-mail, if you’re so moved: High Country News Redesign, P.O. Box 1090, Paonia, CO 81428, or [email protected]

A new hybrid

Over the past several months, you may have noticed ads in the paper for a development director and a marketing director. The two positions reflect High Country News’ needs as a nonprofit media organization for both marketing and fund-raising expertise. We’ve finally found one person to straddle both worlds: Deb French joins the HCN staff as our new outreach director.

In addition to assisting Development Director Gretchen Aston-Puckett with fund raising, Deb will do something that has never been done before at HCN: Coordinate the marketing of all our media, including the paper, Radio High Country News, Writers on the Range, and special reports and books.

Deb comes to Paonia from Colorado’s Front Range, where she has spent the past two decades raising money and overseeing a wide variety of programs, from car-seat safety to sexual assault prevention, for the Colorado Department of Health. She is excited to be returning to a more rural setting. In the 1970s, she was part of the budding organic farming and co-op movement in Minnesota. There, she grew her own food and raised two daughters. This summer, we expect to see a large garden sprouting in Deb’s new backyard.

They’re not dead yet!

Finally, former HCN editor Betsy Marston wanted us to tell everyone that rumors of her retirement are greatly exaggerated. She’s still editing our Writers on the Range syndicate, and dishing out healthy servings of irony in her “Heard around the West” column.

Lest anyone think she’s lost her nerve, she recently made an appearance in the New York Times style section for a little “dustup” she got into with another guest at her daughter’s engagement party. The Times found the argument — which was about the war with Iraq — to be quite inappropriate: “Like a one-night stand, that kind of heated discussion might be passionate, but is perhaps too emotionally intimate to share with a near stranger.” But Betsy assured the writer that she would continue to speak her mind. We have no doubt.

Betsy’s husband, former publisher Ed Marston, will be on staff for another six months as senior journalist. He hasn’t lost his edge, either — check out his opinion piece on page 7.

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