Letter From the Heartland

Deep Thanks

Thank you. We invited your support and you responded. We have received more testimonials, subscriptions, creative ideas, offers of support, angelic visitations, and well-wishing prayers than we had dared to hope for. And, emboldened by your vote of confidence, we are re-examining everything about how we do business in light of our commitment to helping make a greener, kinder world.

In the spirit of creating a more flexible, versatile organizational structure here at Utne Reader, we are starting at the top by deconstructing the traditional position of publisher into an evolving co-publisher partnership. Margaret Klis, formerly chief operating officer, and I will be co-publishers together with Julie Ristau.

It gives me particular joy to welcome Julie into this role, since she was instrumental in the founding of the magazine 17 years ago. She and my husband, Eric, met over a copy machine Utne Reader shared with another business and, Julie, a former hog farmer from southern Minnesota, upon learning about his idea for the magazine immediately suggested he reprint an article on the farm crisis from The Progressive. She soon became the magazine’s associate publisher, creating our circulation and production departments. She left the company in 1987 to become director of an organization working to save family farms, though, by virtue of marrying editor Jay Walljasper, she didn’t ever really leave. And now, after two years as publishing consultant for us, she officially returns. Julie’s resume includes numerous projects in organizational development for a wide variety of enterprises.

Meanwhile, Margaret Klis’ ability to assemble all the pieces expresses itself in everything from constructing our financial infrastructure to eliciting the best from the people who work here to sewing breathtaking quilts in her spare time (which she should have more of with our new structure). We’ll let you know when we’re ready to unveil Margaret’s prototype of a 3D organizational chart.

If I had the space, I would give you inspiring examples of how everyone here has embraced change and challenge with ingenuity, humor, and incredible dedication. Apart from our visible editorial evolution, we are taking initiatives in every department to redefine how we do business. At last count, we’re pursuing six alternative circulation strategies in various stages of development as we attempt to lessen our dependency on expensive direct mail. Our embryonic e-ffiliate program, for instance, is already lining up organizations with an online presence who value the voice of independent media to sell Utne Reader subscriptions for a cut of the subscription price. If you want to find out more, contact our circulation director, Jeremy Weiland (jeremy@ utne.com). We are also in the business of helping other organizations create online communities based on our experience with the award-winning Café Utne. Contact our Café manager Kai Hagen (kai@ utne.com).

You may notice that we’ve cut back on those pesky blow-in cards. I remember my chagrin when we first decided to use them–the truth is that we don’t like them any more than you do–but circulation statistics prove that response falls when we put fewer of them in. So prove the conventional wisdom wrong and make good use of the cards that remain. Or, better yet, keep those online subscriptions coming (www.utne.com).

We cherish your encouragement as dearly as we do the changing of the light and the blossoming of the season here in Minnesota. Life is definitely stirring. Have a joyful spring and summer.

–Nina Utne

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