One of the joys of editing Utne Reader is working hand in hand with the award-winning writers, magazine editors, and independent thinkers who populate our pages. In this issue, for instance, we are publishing pieces from Pushcart Prize and O. Henry Award winner Rick Bass (“The Burning Present”) and from author Andrew Solomon (“To an Aesthete Dying Young”), who took home a National Book Award in 2001 and was a finalist for a Pulitzer Prize in 2002.
I’ve also had the privilege to collaborate with Eric Utne, the founder of this enterprise, who not only has been respectful and supportive since the magazine was sold five years ago, but also tirelessly advocates for us in public and pens a regular column for our back page.
In this issue, Eric challenges news organizations to decrease the amount of political bias and divisive vitriol in their coverage, and to pursue a more “holistic journalism” featuring a multiplicity of voices and opinions. This would demand that the public pay closer attention and take the initiative to make up their minds. No small feat. But forging a more complex relationship between the Fourth Estate and the citizenry may be our best chance to reshape our battered body politic.
Eric’s vision also speaks directly to Utne Reader’s core mission. Our editors aren’t recruited because of their politics or their personal crusades. They’re hired for their open minds and dogged pursuit of the next big idea, even when it’s messy or contradictory or seemingly impossible. They are curators. And I can confidently say that our current cast is the most experienced, least predictable bunch to sit around our conference table since I came to the magazine six years ago.
A few folks have been here with me since the beginning: award-winning art director Stephanie Glaros, who single-handedly brought our design into the 21st century; senior editor Keith Goetzman, a stalwart environmentalist and the staff musicologist; and Lynn Marasco, a copy editor who not only polishes our prose, but also challenges our choices every step of the way.
We’ve also had an infusion of new blood in the past few months. Assistant editor and web guru David Doody comes to us from the online arts and literature magazine Guernica, where we found the feature “Fish with the King.” Associate editor Margret Aldrich sharpened her chops as an acquisitions editor for Voyageur Press, and senior editor Brad Zellar has a résumé so varied that there isn’t room to do it justice. Among other things, he has written the book Suburban World: The Norling Photos, contributed fiction and poetry to various literary journals, covered professional baseball, and owned an independent bookstore. He’s also been known to get in the ring and spar with guys training in mixed martial arts.
Having these folks in the office every day routinely turns work into play, ensures that Eric Utne’s journalistic vision will be carried out in the magazine he created, and guarantees that Utne Reader will continue to arouse its readership—ready or not.
This article first appeared in the March-April 2011 issue of Utne Reader.