When Eric, my husband, started Utne Reader over 20
years ago, he asked two questions: What’s going on in the world
that people need to know about? Where is that information to be
found? At that time, most leading-edge ideas were found in
small-circulation print publications, so both the editorial process
and the magazine’s design reflected that reality.
Three years ago, we redesigned the magazine and dropped the word
Reader. Now we are revisioning both the magazine and the
Web site and the relationship between the two to reflect the
changing information landscape. The best of the independent press
is our foundation, but compelling independent voices are
increasingly found in other forms of media. So, 20 years later, we
find ourselves asking fundamental questions: What are the most
essential ideas, images, inspirations, and tools, and how can we
present them in the most inviting and accessible forms? How can we
apply our core competency to today’s landscape?
I recently had dinner with John Miller, a friend who teaches in
a ‘Waldorf methods’ high school. He never got a teaching degree
because Waldorf schools require a different form of training. Now
his high school has become a charter school in the public school
system and, ignited by the challenge of how to reach kids who
weren’t raised to love the written word, he’s gone back to school
to get a teaching degree. ‘I used to be able to read hundreds of
pages of text as a matter of course,’ he told me, describing the
way he processed information as a student 14 years ago. ‘Now I find
that I simply don’t have the tolerance for masses of words that
aren’t immediately applicable to what I care about. It is not a
question of good or bad, it is simply a matter of fact that the way
we get our information and process it is changing.’
His words corroborate my own experience and that of many people
I encounter. Life is speeding up and, though we may lament it,
change is our only reliable lifelong companion and flexibility our
only effective response. In order to be relevant, information needs
to be succinct, accessible, and visceral, as well as varied in its
forms. In our revamping, we’ll be keeping a lot of what you — and
we — love about the current format, but we’re also hoping to
evolve in a way that will surprise and delight. The
November/December issue will begin to reflect these changes.
This evolution is bringing with it some staff changes.
Karen Olson was just about to embark on writing a book when we
persuaded her to shelve it and take on the editorship 18 months
ago. After a rapid six-year ascent from the bottom of our editorial
masthead to the top, she is now leaving to return to that book. We
hope that you will see her byline in the pages of the magazine in
Senior editor Jeremiah Creedon has been on and off staff since
1987. He has had a writing project percolating for quite some time
and has decided this is his moment. The irony of brilliant editing
is that it is invisible, so I’ll share a fan note from author Marc
Ian Barasch: ‘When you read a piece Jerry’s edited, you find
yourself thinking, Gee, I wish I could write like that.
Then you realize you did; it just took his almost eerie acumen to
see what you were trying to say and, after burnishing it to a
subtle patina, gracefully place it front and center.’ Luckily for
us, Jerry regards becoming a freelancer again as just another stage
in his long relationship with the magazine.
I am grateful to Karen and Jerry for all they have put into the
magazine and I admire that they are embracing change in order to
follow their passions. That is, after all, what this magazine is
Meanwhile, we are formalizing my already active role in the
editorial process by adding editor-in-chief to my title. I am
excited to lead our dynamic editorial staff.
P.S. See page 83 for information on our new online store. We’ve
chosen gear that expresses the spirit of the magazine and we think
it will speak to (and for) you.