Dear friends

  • Deanna Belch and her new paper

    Matt Jenkins


HCN’s home town, Paonia, Colo., population 1,500, is grieving for three children killed in an explosion at a mountain lodge outside of town. At least 16 others were injured in the March 19 blast, which was probably caused by a propane leak. Delta County Sheriff Fred McKee identified the children as 2-year-old Isaac Watkins and his 12-year-old sister, Leslie Bilbrey, both of Paonia, and their 16-year-old cousin, Jamie Reade, of Kansas City, Mo. All were grandchildren of the lodge’s owners, Mike and Nancy Hughes. Our hearts go out to the victims and their families.


Many reporters were on hand to cover the lodge disaster, including Denver Post staff writers Joey Bunch — a longtime HCN reader — and Nancy Lofholm of the Western Slope bureau, who came in to say hello.

Former intern J.T. Thomas dropped by on his way to a photo assignment in Grand Junction. J.T. is now a freelance photographer in New York City. To see some of his latest work, visit Deanna Belch, another former intern, also came by with copies of the brand-new Rico Bugle. She co-founded the newspaper for her hometown of Rico, Colo., population 240, near Telluride. Our favorite story in the first issue is about a proposal to redraw vacant lots to keep new houses out of avalanche paths.


Ed and Betsy Marston traveled to California recently for a conference at Stanford University sponsored by the brand-new Bill Lane Center for the Study of the North American West. "Starting West: The Region’s Image and Identity in National Media and Culture" was organized by historians David Kennedy (author of Freedom From Fear) and Richard White (author of It’s Your Misfortune and None of My Own). Its theme might be summed up in one word: frustration.

That’s because Eastern newspapers and institutions continue to define the region, and while the West has many newspapers and intellectual centers at universities, it has yet to develop its own voice. Or so said some participants. Others, such as Rick Rodriguez of the Sacramento Bee, said, in effect: Who cares what Easterners think, when the need is to deliver good regional reporting?

The Center’s mission is clear: "to create a nationally recognized home for the scholarly study of the North American West and Pacific Rim." Its activities include supporting research and funding internships. For more information, contact Lisa Kwiatkowski, director of communications, at 650-723-3901, [email protected]


In the March 7 issue of HCN, in a story about oil and gas drilling on New Mexico’s Otero Mesa, BLM state director Linda Rundell was quoted as saying "If (energy companies) come up with a dry hole, we’ll limit leasing." State BLM spokesman Hans Stuart called to say that it would be the lack of oil or gas, not the agency itself, that would limit further leasing.


Very soon, you should be receiving our annual reader survey and spring Research Fund appeal (unless you recently gave a contribution) in the mail. Please turn to page 14 for more information about how you can help celebrate 35 years of HCN.

High Country News Classifieds