CHANGING OF THE GUARD

High Country News is bidding goodbye to editor Greg Hanscom and welcoming new editor John Mecklin.

Mecklin got his start in journalism in 1978 as a reporter for the twice-a-week Williamson County Sun in rural Texas. Later, as a reporter for the Houston Post, he traveled to Saudi Arabia and Iraq to cover the first Persian Gulf War. Since 1993, he has edited alternative news weeklies — first New Times in Phoenix, and then the San Francisco Weekly. There, he specialized in groundbreaking investigative stories.

"Fallout," a multi-part series he edited, covered the checkered and often frightening history of the Hunters Point Shipyard. The Navy wanted to hand the shipyard over to the city of San Francisco for residential and commercial development. But 13 months of reporting and a mountain of declassified documents revealed that the Navy had used the shipyard to do all manner of experiments with highly radioactive material, leaving a mess that it didn’t dare look at, much less clean up. The stories stopped the development proposal in its tracks, says Mecklin, and won "just about every major journalism award, except a Pulitzer."

What are his plans for High Country News? For starters, he says, he’ll focus on finding stories that are in keeping with HCN’s traditional coverage. There will inevitably be changes, but he expects them to be gradual, and he is determined to hang on to the independent, intelligent spirit that first impressed him about the paper when he stumbled upon it in the early 1990s. "High Country News is really good already," he says, "and it’s just poised and waiting to be that much better."

He urges readers to contact him with comments — or complaints — at john@hcn.org.

NOTES FROM READERS

Tom Ward, California policy director for the International Mountain Bicycling Association, writes that HCN Editor Greg Hanscom quoted him out of context in a Sept. 18 editorial. Ward asked the author of the issue’s cover story, Patrick Farrell, "Why am I arguing for (mountain bike access to) this postage stamp when I’ve got the rest for people to ride?" He says he was speaking "only in the context of California’s current wilderness bills — not IMBA’s broader policies, as Hanscom suggests. In short, I fully support IMBA’s ongoing work on wilderness issues."

Agustin Goba, a former ’zine publisher from Snowmass Village, Colo., wrote with "just a bit of nit-picking" regarding the Oct. 2 story, "Sweet Simplicity." "It states that ’zines have their roots in punk rock and anarchist culture," says Goba. "Actually, those punk rock and anarchist ’zines had their roots in even earlier ’zines, namely the fanzines put out by the hundreds, if not thousands, by science fiction fans, going back to at least the 1940s."

And Ben Beach, senior editor at The Wilderness Society, responded to our Sept. 4 story, "Reborn," which described nuclear power advocate Patrick Moore as a Greenpeace founder. Beach says Moore was among the 12 people aboard Greenpeace’s first protest ship, and that he calls himself a founder, but "he is not one of the three founding members."