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Know the West

High Country News welcomes Jennifer Sahn as editor-in-chief

Sahn will lead coverage of the Western United States as the magazine heads into its second half-century.


High Country News is happy to announce that Jennifer Sahn has been selected as its next editor-in-chief. Starting April 1, Sahn will lead the magazine’s award-winning coverage of the Western United States and its people and lands.

Jennifer Sahn
Terence Patrick

Sahn comes to HCN having served in leadership positions at Pacific Standard, a California-based magazine that reported on environmental and social justice, and Orion magazine, which covers environmental and cultural issues.

“Jennifer thrives in the places where the human and natural worlds intersect — HCN’s native habitat,” Executive Director Greg Hanscom said. “She brings a love of the West’s land and people, and a commitment to equity and justice both in the region and in journalism. We’re thrilled to have her.”

Originally from California, Sahn pursued an environmental studies degree at Middlebury College in Vermont. She stayed in the East to join Orion and rose to become editor. During her tenure, the publication earned numerous Pushcart Prizes and two Utne Independent Press awards for General Excellence. She also organized the Breadloaf Environmental Writers Conference and launched a new publication, Orion Afield, which focused on grassroots activism.

Sahn returned to California in 2015, accepting the role of executive editor at Pacific Standard. During her time there, the magazine received many honors, including a Mirror Award and a National Magazine Award for feature photography.

“I have worked alongside High Country News for many years as a fellow journalist in the environmental and social justice space, seeking stories that illuminate the land and our relationship to it as well as the forces that threaten it and our communities,” Sahn said. “I’m excited to build on the publication’s rich history and advance its status as the best source for narrative journalism and thoughtful visions about the future of the American West.”

Jennifer Sahn in the Eastern Sierra.
Jennifer Sahn

For more than 50 years, High Country News — based in Paonia, Colorado, but with staff and contributors scattered across the region — has reported the stories of the Western U.S. that are often overlooked by larger media outlets. The nonprofit news organization has won numerous accolades, including awards from the Society of Environmental Journalists, Utne Media, National Association of Science Writers, the Native American Journalists Association and the James Beard Foundation, among many others.

Most recently, “Land-Grab Universities,” a two-year investigation led by Tristan Ahtone and Robert Lee, won the prestigious 2020 George Polk Award for Education Reporting, marking the third time work published by HCN has been honored with a Polk Award. The project examined how the expropriation of Indigenous land became the foundation for the land-grant university system. The judges lauded it for sending “shockwaves through campuses across the country” with students demanding institutions take action.

As editor-in-chief, Sahn will continue to advance HCN’s work to center voices too often left out of conversations about the West and reach audiences across the region and country.

“I believe that stories have a unique potential to develop empathy, raise awareness and foster cross-cultural understanding, all of which are needed to help our region rise to the challenges ahead,” Sahn said. “And I believe in the power of public service journalism, knowing that a story well reported and well told can have a real impact on readers, communities and on public policy.

“The privilege of being in the business of storytelling is not lost on me,” she added. “I am committed to using my role as a gatekeeper to elevate diverse voices and publish stories that address power imbalances in our society.”

For more information about High Country News, contact Greg Hanscom, HCN’s executive director and publisher, at greghanscom at hcn.org.