Former High Country News Publisher Ed Marston
Tom Bell didn’t found High Country News on a shoestring. To Tom, back in 1970 or 1971 or 1972, a shoestring would have been luxury.
Tom had something better than start-up capital. He had a vision of the West that demolished such flimsy constructs as county and state and federal land boundaries. Tom’s High Country News wiped out those straight-line boundaries so that we could see a 1 million-square-mile landscape that is among the most extraordinary on earth.
Were there a few cities and large towns scattered across that landscape? Of course. And Tom, working out of Lander, Wyo., had the good sense to ignore them. Cities had newspapers of their own. The rural interior West had only High Country News and it needed all of that publication’s attention.
That was the rock High Country News was founded on: the stark, arid, raw, barely populated Interior West. A publication rooted in such a place, covering the ideas and conflicts and lives that flow off its land and wildlife and people, could not fail.
It could not fail because it filled a great need in the readers it attracted, even though most of those readers live in places and regions High Country News would not cover.
At one time, the HCN business model seemed almost whimsical. How could a publication depend on its readers for most of its income? Today, in the wake of the devastation that has hit the traditional publishing industry, the HCN nonprofit model seems very practical. High Country News is alive and thriving today, 39 years after its birth, because it depends on its readers for most of its sustenance through subscriptions and the Research Fund.
I write to you today, seven years after leaving HCN, and 26 years after Betsy and I took it over from an earlier generation, to remind you of the inseparable, indispensable bond that exists between you and this institution.
I ask you to renew that bond as I do with this letter and with my gift to the Research Fund. What greater privilege do we have than to sustain that which sustains us?
Ed Marston, High Country News Publisher, 1983 – 2002
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