The Utne Family and the Utne Family

With this issue, we celebrate 20 years in business. It seems like both an eternity and an eye-blink. It has been inspiring to look over past issues and to think of all the people who have contributed in so many ways over the years. Between those who have passed through our salons and the many current and past staff members and interns, we have become an astonishing extended family of heart, brains, and talent. You can add to that clan all the people whose ideas and writings and art we have featured and then add all the readers whose lives we are privileged to have touched as the magazine’s influence has rippled outward. A huge thank-you to all of you.

Embedded in the company’s history is our family’s history. From the early days, when we held editorial salons in our living room, with toddlers and dogs in attendance, to today, when Leif, my stepson, is responsible for our story on the ‘radical middle,’ our whole family has lived with the odd little newsletter that turned out to have a life of its own. Eric, my husband, maintains that he started the magazine for two reasons: to make the world a little kinder and a little greener, and to have a legitimate excuse to lie on the couch reading when I had different priorities for him (like doing the dishes and taking out the garbage).

Over the years, the two of us have sweated and fought, deliberated and celebrated. Keeping a small publishing business afloat has been a challenge. It was a particular challenge to keep our marriage from capsizing during the storm and stress that accompanied Eric’s handing the business over to me. Certainly we have had our share of rough patches (who hasn’t?), but this anniversary gives us an opportunity to herald the future even while we’re appreciating the past. At various arduous points along the way, we’ve promised each other that the time would come when we both would be able to wholeheartedly celebrate the unorthodox path we’ve been following. For us, this issue marks that occasion.

For that reason, it gives me particular pleasure to announce the launch of Eric’s latest enterprise: Cosmo’s Urban Almanac (see the ad on page 111). When Eric was contemplating starting Utne Reader, the first name he chose for it was American Almanac. For as long as I have known him, he has been fascinated with almanacs, with Benjamin Franklin (of Poor Richard’s Almanac fame), and with how we interact with the rhythms of nature. So this time he has set his eclectic sensibility loose on the question of how we might find our place in nature, now that, for the first time in history, more than half the planet’s population lives in cities. Family pride aside, I have to say that he is creating an annual publication that is useful, inspiring, eccentric, beautiful, and utterly original. Check it out.

The last words my grandmother said to me, in a moment of clarity that broke through her senility, were these: ‘It’s all family, isn’t it?’

That’s how it’s come to feel with so many of you over these years. Here’s to us!

P.S. In the interest of being a little greener, we would like to do as much of our subscription renewal as possible via e-mail. When you give us your e-mail address, you will be eligible to win a $999 E-go electric bike (go to to learn more about the bike). For your chance to win, please go to We will never share your e-mail. Thanks in advance.

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