Mountain Gazette: Not your typical outdoors magazine | VailDaily.com
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Mountain Gazette: Not your typical outdoors magazine

Alex Miller
Special to the Daily/Brad OdekirkM. John Fayhee and Mike Kirschbaum, who previously worked together at the Summit Daily News, are now joining forces at the Mountain Gazette. Fayhee, who relaunched the magazine five years ago, will step down as editor/publisher but remain involved with the publication.
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FRISCO It was launched, had its name changed, died and then was brought back to life. Now, the Mountain Gazette is entering a new phase with the departure of editor-publisher M. John Fayhee.Although hes not going very far. Fayhee plans to take a few months off, then continue writing for the monthly magazine. Hell turn the business reins over to Mike Kirschbaum, former general manager of the Summit Daily News and, more recently, publisher of the Denver Daily News.Ive been doing this for five straight years, and I believe no editor should be with a publication for longer than that, Fayhee said. You end up just going through the motions, even if youve gotten really good at those motions.A part of the Colorado publishing scene for several decades, Fayhee, 49, said hes looking forward to devoting more time to writing than handling the daily tasks of running a magazine. Kirschbaum, for his part, said hes eager to build on the magazines strong writing with increased advertising revenue.Its hard to find writing like this anymore, Kirschbaum said, referring to the Gazettes reputation for long, literary-styled articles. Everything else is going shorter, and I think its a really cool thing to think that I can help keep this alive, make it bigger and better.Death and rebirthA large-format magazine aimed at mountain dwellers with literary leanings, the publication began its life as the Skiers Gazette. Renamed the Mountain Gazette, the magazine made a name for itself from 1972-1979 featuring well-known outdoor writers such as Edward Abbey, Rob Schultheis and George Sibley. Then, it went away. More than 20 years would pass before, Fayhee along with partners Curtis Robinson and George Stranahan relaunched the Gazette in March, 2000.The partners were convinced there was a niche for a magazine aimed at the outdoors set that didnt focus solely on things like gear, destinations and Top 10 lists. That, Fayhee said, remains the mission.A lot of people hate Backpacker and Outside and Canoe & Kayak, he said, referring to other popular outdoor publications. Rocky Mountain Sports is toilet paper. People are tired of that kind of lame writing, that mainstream stuff.While some readers may question the extraordinary length and topic choice of some Gazette stories, the magazine nonetheless has a dedicated base of readers who never miss an issue. Unlike most publications, the Gazette is designed from the bottom up around the stories, rather than the ads. That may be balm to the souls of readers, but it hasnt always translated into a healthy revenue stream.Thats something Fayhee acknowledges and Kirschbaum said hes eager to address.The goal is to find the people who love us and read us, he said. The easiest pitch is do you like us and want to support us, and if its yes then you go from there.Things are already looking up: Kirschbaum said sales for the June issue of the magazine topped the previous record, and he hoped to add to that in future months by focusing on getting new advertisers in the Gazettes pages.Readers of the Gazette may be different than readers of a daily newspaper, but they still buy cars and clothes and eat food, he said. We dont have to focus so much on niche (advertisers) but rather on the simple fact that our readers are humans who need things to survive.Old schoolIn the tiny Frisco office where the Gazette is published, manuscripts from would-be contributors pile up like snow in March. The magazine has always had an open-door submission policy, not only for essays and features but for poetry. It also pays not much, but enough to encourage writers and photographers to submit material in a never-ending stream that must be waded through.And then there are the regulars, like George Sibley, a Western State College professor whose philosophical writings about mountain life were recently assembled in a Mountain Gazette-published book Dragons in Paradise. B Frank, another regular, sends in typewritten manuscripts from an unknown location somewhere in the Southwest. Women are encouraged to submit and some do but the magazine still takes heat from readers who find its content too male-centric.Despite it modest base of operations, the Mountain Gazette has branched out in recent years, distributing limited numbers of copies in areas from Seattle to Stowe, Vt. Colorado remains its main distribution area, but readers can also find it in far-flung locations deep in the Appalachians, in Arizona, Utah and New Mexico and as far north as Montana and Idaho.Appealing to such a diverse readership and advertising base isnt easy.People in Montana are very different, Fayhee said, citing one example. Like everyone in the Mountain Time Zone, they hate Colorado.When the Gazette was relaunched, he said, some assumptions were made as to commonalities existing between mountain dwellers similarities they thought would transcend the differences.Nothing could be further from the truth, Fayhee said.Even with the challenges of juggling many tasks and putting out a magazine on a shoestring budget, Fayhee wrote in the June issue that he considers the relaunch of the Gazette to be the single-most important thing hes ever done.We hope to continue, I hope, where the content and attitude transcends the concept of the publication as just a delivery vehicle for advertising, Fayhee said. But clearly we need to put more focus on the business side of things, and I think with Kirschs experience we can do that. Alex Miller can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 615, or amiller@vaildaily.com.Vail Daily, Vail, Colorado


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