Sunday, January 12, 2003

January 12, 2003
It seems like more and more of our culture and media is becoming fragmented snippets—magazines and newspapers are doing less and less long features and more sidebars and what we call potato chips. It seems like we just don’t have the time or the commitment these days.

On the other hand, I read today’s Arizona Republic in about ten minutes (this is a huge edition with mucho inserts and many trees died for the cause). It was all snacks and no main dish: No meat, all finger foods. It was very unsatisfying. Speaking of which:

We got a nasty letter last week from one of our cranky old guys: “I buy True West because I want to read new or better written stories about the Old West. If your Feb./March 2003 issue is a preview of things to come you no longer measure up to the job. This issue has 18 pages out of 120 total pages of rather mediocre stories I might think about reading and the rest is trivia, fashion and travel—you have become a very expenisve flea market catalogue which I can no long afford. Good luck.”

At first I was just very angry (the guy who wrote it is a pompous ass), but ultimately I didn’t want to be like Walleye Patti (see September’s Wyoming postings). As an exercise, I took a 1959 TW (one of my favorite issues when I was a kid, see cover) and put it side by side with our latest issue. While I think we have just as much solid, historical information as the old issue, there is a momentum the old magazine had that was very compelling. As much as I hate to admit it, the older TW had a gritty, authentic feel to it. You really felt like you were reading the real deal (of course, some of this may come from my feelings as a 10-year-old-kid—and I absolutely loved this magazine!) To boot, the older issue was very desert oriented in terms of old photographs of isolated ghost towns and seemed to have a bunch of stories that took place in harsh, desert locations. If I had to assign the issue a color it would be brown. Of course, the new issue is more lush in every way, and if I had to assign a color to it, that color would be green. Now that’s not a bad thing, but it did help me see perhaps why the old reader might feel abandoned (that and the fact we don’t publish his articles anymore). I don’t think it would hurt to get more “brown” back in the magazine and I think we can do it with articles on ghost towns, lost treasures, old trails, etc. Articles that we kind of got away from but still have power. I could go on, but I think Harry said it best:

“The only thing new in the world is the history you don’t know.”
—Harry Truman