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Know the West

Editors out and about this winter

From Washington Post op-eds to guest speaking engagements, our editors stay busy (and warm).


High Country News staffers in the Gunnison, Colorado, satellite editorial office have struggled to stay warm these past few weeks, with the mercury dropping to a bitter minus-24 degrees Fahrenheit in late January. But we’re making the best of it. Most weekends see several cross-country ski excursions into the nearby national forest and other public lands that surround town. Associate Editor Paige Blankenbuehler instigates most of these outings, declaring that she could “ski all day,” as the rest of us try to keep pace.

At the end of January, our loquacious bard-in-chief, Brian Calvert, delivered a lecture on the concept of “poetic thinking” in the backroom of a brewpub in Crested Butte, Colorado. Invited to speak by the Crested Butte Center for the Arts, Brian asked the beer-buzzed attendees to contemplate the history of metered verse, the value of poetry in an age of ecological catastrophe, and the nature of beauty. He wasn’t even heckled. Much.

Assistant Editor Anna V. Smith, meanwhile, was invited to her alma mater, the University of Oregon in Eugene, to speak with journalism students about the profession, what a magazine looks for in a pitch, and how to improve their stories. The class, a member of the HCNU program, which offers free subscriptions to university and high school students, was well acquainted with HCN, and several would-be future interns were eager to apply.

When they were 9 and 11 years old, Karen Howe’s grandfather and great-uncle founded a paper using this press.
Courtesy of Karen Howe

In a Jan. 25 Washington Post opinion, Associate Editor Tristan Ahtone took the national media to task for its response to a viral video of MAGA-hatted teenagers taunting an Indigenous activist of the Omaha Tribe, in Washington, D.C. “It was left to Native journalists to remind the public why the kids’ behavior was racist,” Ahtone wrote, citing their jeers and “tomahawk chops” at a rally at the National Mall. Ahtone blamed the dearth of non-white reporters in national newsrooms for the industry’s inability to “see the racist gestures or hear blatant mockery” in the video. Ahtone, who is also the president of the Native American Journalists Association, leads HCN’s Tribal Affairs desk, which centers Native voices and nuanced storytelling for an Indigenous audience.

At our (warmer) Paonia office, customer service representative Karen Howe recently surprised us with some newspaper history. Her grandfather Hutton and his brother Graham founded the Wisner Bee in Wisner, Nebraska, back in 1924, when they were just kids. The scrappy biweekly was printed on a Platen Press, which required hand-set type and was powered by foot pedal. Karen brought in a surviving copy of the paper and described how Howe’s father, Richard, inherited the press and a tradition of ink stains by opening his own book publishing press. Karen and her brother learned the craft of printing on the old press. After more than a century, she said, “this machine still runs smoothly, effortlessly printing large quantities.”