Why the Land Desk?

And how you can be part of the conversation

This is a newsletter about Place. Namely that place where humanity and the landscape intersect in the Western United States, with a focus on the Four Corners Country and Colorado Plateau, land of the Ute, Diné, Pueblo, Apache, and San Juan Southern Paiute people. From there, coverage will spread outward into the remainder of the “public-land states” of the Interior West.

This is where climate change is coming home to roost in the form of chronic drought, desertification, and raging wildfires. This is where often-toxic politics are playing out on the nation’s public lands. This is at once the chosen extractive-industry sacrifice zone, and the playground and wilderness-refuge for the rest of the nation. This is the headwaters for so many rivers of the West. And this is where Indigenous peoples’ fight for land-justice is at its most potent.

The Land Desk will provide a voice for this region and a steady current of information, thought, and commentary about a wide range of topics, from climate change to energy to economics to public lands. Most importantly, the information will be contextualized so that we—my readers and I—can better understand what it all means. Perhaps we can also help chart a better and more sustainable course for the region—the “native home of hope,” in Wallace Stegner’s reckoning—to follow into the future.

I’ve essentially been doing the work of the Land Desk for more than two decades. For much of the last 15 years my journalism had a home at High Country News. But after I went freelance four years ago, and my role at HCN was gradually diminished, I started running up against the freelancer bottleneck, which is what happens when you produce more content more quickly than you can sell it. That extra content ends up homeless, or swirling around in my brain, or residing in semi-obscurity on my personal website. I hope the Land Desk will remedy that. When you sign up and pay for a subscription, you’re helping to support this journalism—and this journalist.

For the low price of $6/month, subscribers will receive a minimum of three dispatches each week, including:

  • 1 Land Bulletin (news, analysis, commentary, essay, long-form narrative, or investigative piece);

  • 1 Data Dump (anything from a set of numbers with context to full-on data-visual stories);

  • 1 News Roundup, which will highlight a sample of the great journalism happening around the West.

  • Additionally, I’ll be throwing in all sorts of things, from on-the-ground reporter notebooks to teasers from upcoming books to the occasional fiction piece to throwbacks from my journalistic archives.

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There are already a lot of stellar journalists covering these issues, from Zak Podmore in southeast Utah, to Sammy Roth over at the LA Times, to Luke Runyon and Jonathan Romeo in Colorado, to Laura Paskus in New Mexico and Ian James in Arizona (and many more). And, of course, the smart folks at High Country News cover this region and these issues with insight and depth. The Land Desk will offer a unique perspective meant to complement these strong voices.

I hope you’ll join me by signing up for a subscription, whether it’s paid or free. Can’t afford it? Contact me and we’ll work out a deal. Have money aching to be spent? Become a founding member and help make this a more viable operation, while also supporting free subscriptions. And please spread the word to anyone who might be interested. I also welcome your suggestions, comments, and news tips.

Coming up this week from the Land Desk:

  • Data Dump: An indicator stream sends out an alarm

  • Land Bulletin: The Wise-Use roots of the invasion of the Capitol and the lingering influence of W. Cleon Skousen

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