Report from the summer HCN board meeting

  • Jean Swearingen and her daughter, Marta Fonda, dropped by the HCN office.

    Andrew Cullen

High Country News' board of directors met in our hometown of Paonia, Colo. at the end of May, to assess the nonprofit's health, discuss our prospects, and savor the Western Slope's beauty. The news was good: HCN continues to expand its reach -- our website,, saw one-third more visitors in the first quarter of 2013 compared to last year. And the organization's finances are solid, due to better-than-expected income from readers' donations, grants, subscriptions and advertising.

We discussed how to encourage these trends, particularly regarding the paid subscriber base, which has stayed relatively flat at around 23,000 for about five years. Ideas ranged from improving the variety and presentation of stories on the website to putting more resources into marketing, to convert casual online readers into committed community members and subscribers. Over the rest of the summer, a team of board and staff will incorporate the strongest ideas into a new three-year strategic plan.

Art auction a great success
On June 21st, High Country News held its first-ever art auction, graciously hosted by Andy Wiessner, a longtime board member, and Patsy Batchelder at their home atop a green hill in Snowmass, Colo. Subscribers, artists and friends enjoyed the remarkable views, stunning artwork and delicious food (prepared by Patsy, Andy and our own staff). Former intern Mark Harvey talked about the value of the internship program, and generously donated one of his own black-and-white photographs. Colorado state Sen. Gail Schwartz and Navajo artist Shonto Begay also attended, along with Ed and Betsy Marston, former publisher and editor of HCN. The auction brought in money to support HCN's work, and we're grateful to everyone who made it possible.

Artists and lawyers visit
Longtime HCN subscriber Jean Swearingen of Estes Park, Colo., and her daughter, Marta Fonda of Evergreen, Colo., came by our office so that Jean could drop off her art auction donation -- a totem sculpture made of deer vertebrae, depicting various owl species. She laughed when we thanked her, saying, "You have to get rid of them so you can make more." She first saw the beauty of bones, she says, while taking X-rays as a lab tech in Jackson, Wyo. Jean left with a sun-bleached fox skull found by HCN director Paul Larmer in his fields west of town.

Longtime subscribers Scott Hacking, Karen Brunvand and their son, Niles, stopped by on their way to Golden, Colo., from their home in Price, Utah. Niles, a recent graduate of Carbon High School, is headed to the Colorado School of Mines in Golden this fall.

On his way back from the Telluride Mountainfilm festival, Brad Purdy of Boise, Idaho, stopped to say hello. Since writing an essay for HCN in '94 about southwest Idaho's wild Owyhee country, Brad has worked for the Idaho Public Utilities Commission, and now runs his own law practice.

Betty Kuehner stopped by during a trip from Denver, where she works (and reads HCN) at the legendary Tattered Cover bookstore, which is many HCNers' idea of heaven. She recalled visiting Paonia 30 years ago and eating at the restaurant across the street. The town has changed, she said, but not much, although nowadays you can buy local wines here, as she did at the aptly named Delicious Orchards.


The June 24 editor's note mentioned that writer Jeremy Miller grew up in Queens, N.Y. He actually grew up in Arvada, Colo., and moved to Queens in 2000. HCN regrets the error.

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