Twenty Years: The Editor’s Note
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Outside magazine, October 1997
Twenty Years: The Editor’s Note
Legend around here has it that following the publication in our fourth issue of a refreshing but undeniably experimental adventure story set in the cloud forests of Peru, a certain suit on the magazine’s business side shot off a memo charging that the author, a young associate editor by the name of Tim Cahill, had been allowed to romp wild through our pages and clearly needed a whopping dose of editorial discipline. “What are we going to do,” the missive demanded, “about the Cahill problem?”
The editors’ response: “Re the Cahill problem. Let the big hoss run.” And with that vote of confidence Mr. Cahill — now an esteemed editor-at-large and the author of six books and some 150 Outside columns and features — was out of the gate, along with a great many other writers and photographers and illustrators. And Outside was off and running with them. To be honest, we knew less than we thought we did back then. But one thing we did know is that the best magazines are made by people who are free to indulge their curiosity and embrace their passions, who refuse to be bound by convention, who are encouraged, even urged, to hang it out there on what Cahill refers to as
This was a good attitude to have for other reasons, too. While the idea of a literate general-interest magazine about the outdoors now seems pretty obvious, in those early days there were plenty of pundits who were openly dismissive. The outdoor world, these critics were happy to inform us, was populated by two types: illiterate, gun-toting misanthropes and shrill, ecologically
From the start, however, the magazine had the prescience to map out a lot of territory in which to operate. Outside, the editors wrote in the first issue, would be “dedicated to the people, activities, hardware, literature, art, and politics of the outdoors. We believe that one cannot enjoy the outdoors without understanding it, and that to
Twenty years isn’t really very long, of course. As we were putting the final touches on this issue, the media were humming with the 20th anniversary of Elvis’s death, which seems like only yesterday. But as swiftly as the time has passed, we can’t imagine a more rousing couple of decades. In 1977 the environmental movement was still wearing short pants, endurance sports
And so it is that when the editors are now asked to explain Outside‘s “sudden” popularity, our reliable sound-bite response tends to be something about the times having caught up with the magazine. No longer is this a publication about passing phases and fringe pastimes; rather it’s a journal of the times in which we live and the way we conduct our
That said, this anniversary issue is intended as a celebration both of our great good fortune and of the great outdoors as we see it. We called up many of our most talented hands — some who have been with us since the early days, others who have joined the enterprise more recently — and asked them to do what they do best: to get out and explore a world in flux, to
In Alaska, a place we’ve often returned to in our pages, “outside” is what they call the rest of the world. Here at Outside, it’s what we call the world. Lucky folks that we are, we have a stable full of horses, and it’s our great pleasure to turn them loose out there and let them run.