Editorial: Who’s Killing Outside Magazine?

Even though I’ve always been fond of referring to Out There Monthly as a “regional version of Outside magazine,” nobody is going mistake me for a hardcore backwoods hardman. I won’t be giving Mark Jenkins or Hampton Sides a run for their money anytime soon. Grizzy Adams-types out there probably gave up on Outside years ago and switched to more dignified vessels for wilderness adventure like Mountain Gazzette.

Not me.

I read Outside because it is the standard bearer for the entire outdoor industry, and historically they’ve had terrific writers. (Including the Inland Northwest’s own Nick Heil, former editor of the Sandpoint based precursor to OTM called Pursuit.) The magazine has always had a knack for publishing articles depicting how the great issues of our time play out in our outdoor pursuits. Last year’s piece on partying and pollution at Everest base camp is a great example.

But with the March 2008 issue Outside is starting to get silly. For years the magazine has been inserting more Men’s Health-style orgasms and aftershave content. Now Outside has unapologetically crossed over to being a male version of Cosmopolitan with more nature photography and slightly less ad pages.

On the cover is Kelly Slater. No Jack Johnson. Kelly Johnson, Jack Slater-can the United States produce enough surf-rock/rock surf stars to fill the remaining 9 of Outside’s 2008 covers? Hopefully surfer Laird Hamilton will have to win a Nobel Peace Prize or marry Eddie Vedder before they can justify his fourth cover appearance. When did all these pretty surfers become the pinnacle of outdoor endeavor?

But don’t judge a magazine by it’s cover. On the inside six pages after telling me which hybrid SUV to buy (a Toyota Highlander), Outside has peak oil author Bill McKibbon telling me buying an SUV is not enough. Sustainable practices need to permeate every aspect of our lives and I applaud Outside for it’s green coverage but are they just trying assuage that their guilty conscience from all the full page ads they run from automakers and the Beef Council?

And how is it that the passing of one of the twentieth century’s great adventurer’s, Sir Edmund Hillary, rates just a paragraph in the new issue while an interview with two young fashion designers and their “style empire” gets a whole page?

I haven’t stopped reading Outside. Yet. I’m just asking the editors to use a smaller ladle to drip the cheese.

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