Mountain Gazette goes higher

Randy WyrickEagle County correspondent
New owners of the Mountain Gazette say they will maintain the same staff, as well as the publication's irreverence. (Kristin Skvorc/Summit Daily News)

FRISCO Taking credit for something as cool as the Mountain Gazette may or may not have been John Fayhees idea, but its sort of like Joe Torre, whos a dandy guy, taking all the credit for the New York Yankees success when basically his job is to fill out the lineup card and refrain from scratching and spitting on camera.The iconic publication was purchased by GSM Media, and says Mountain Gazette will remain, well … iconic. What they really say is that the investment group intends to maintain Mountain Gazettes unique editorial perspective and the magazines offices will remain in Frisco.Fayhee will remain with the publication as editor, which is where much of its iconic perspective comes from. Fayhee was a key member of the team that resurrected Mountain Gazette in 2000 after the legendary original, which featured the early work of Ed Abbey and other prominent Western writers, was closed. Current contributors include Charles Bowden, George Sibley and Dick Dorworth.Were glad hes staying on as the editor, said investor Paul Gibb, whos also the financial advisor of High Country News. Were trying to keep the culture and the editorial style. Theyve built a great thing here and Ive worked with them for a while. Where else can people around the West see something they like, write about it, send it in and get paid for it?The factsThe Mountain Gazette magazine is one of the most universally literate magazines to ever extol the virtues of everything thats NOT Martha Stewart. Theyre irreverent, theyre inspiring, theyre infuriating but more than anything else theyre fun.An anthology of those early years, When in Doubt, Go Higher (also the magazine’s credo), includes the works of Abbey and legendary outdoor writers. The book, edited by Fayhee, also includes Fayhees perspective on how the Mountain Gazette got re-launched which goes something like this …The legendOne beer-filled autumn afternoon a character in the publishing business well call Bear because of the incriminating photos of him taken at P.T.s Emporium in Denver during the tag-team bikini Jell-o wrestling finals phoned up Fayhee with the idea for a book, When in Doubt, Go Higher, which would be an anthology of some of the amazing writers from the Mountain Gazette, before it went belly up in 1979. Had Fayhee been on his game, which, because of the sunshine and the fermentation process, he was decidedly not, he would have stolen the idea so fast Bears head would still be spinning like a gyroscope on speed, said Fayhee.Fayhee says a bunch of funny stuff like this.When Bear proposed this idea, which he so blatantly stole from me, I said this will be one serious piece of cake; all we would have to do is bind up all 80-some-odd issues of the Gazette, slap a huge price tag upon the volume and proceed to rake in vast quantities of praise and money, said Fayhee, whos the editor/publisher of Mountain Gazette, the author of seven books, editor of When in Doubt, Go Higher, and is what we all want to be when we grow up.The reality was somewhat different. There were 3,000 pages of tabloid-sized text to wade through, which Fayhee had to do, on account of he didnt eyeball closely enough a legal-type document Bear and a couple other corporate heavies made him sign (proving once again what Tom Waits said, The large print giveth and the small print taketh away, Fayhee said).Keepers of the flame and followers of local literature will recognize M. John Fayhees byline. For about a decade he worked for Swift Newspapers, the company that owns the Vail Daily, the Summit Daily News and a bunch of other publications across the western United States. (Last spring, Fayhee filled in as a reporter at The Aspen Times for a couple of months.)That company allowed me to run Summit Outdoors, despite the fact that it lost money every second it existed, said Fayhee.Swifts High Sheriffs finally ordered Fayhee to lay off a staff person. In a personnel maneuver that only added to the Fayhee legend, Fayhee did whats still referred to as pulling a Fayhee. He laid off himself.After hiding all the knives and guns in the house from his wife, he set about deciding how he was going to replace the income needed for such luxuries as food and mortgage payments, and necessities such as carbonated beverages.And that, more or less, was how he and a cast of several decided to relaunch the Mountain Gazette.Mountain Gazette was originally published from 1966 to 1979, but was closed when it couldnt, for various reasons, make the jump into the greed-filled 80s. Fayhee was thumbing through a stack of Mountain Gazette magazines one day when a hideous neer-do-well named Curtis Robinson, who, if you ever meet him you should posthaste smear garlic on your back and make the sign of the cross, or else just hand him a pint of Guinness and hope for the best, called Fayhee to query if hed ever heard of the Mountain Gazette?He had, Fayhee responded. Robinson and George Stranahan, with whom Robinson had become acquainted by way of the Woody Creek Tavern, wanted to relaunch it. And so they did.New owners, same coolnessChris Hickey, the magazines advertising sales director, will continue his role and take on added responsibility in overall management. Hickey has been at Mountain Gazette for five years. Marisa Murphy, office manager, also remains on staff.In addition, the new owners have hired Carter Kirkpatrick as a sales associate.Kirkpatrick is a recent Oregon State graduate with a degree in sports marketing.Gibb will oversee the magazines day-to-day financial operations. Gibb, a financial consultant and long-time fan of Mountain Gazette, lives in Paonia.Also part of GSM Media is Marc Sani, a magazine and newspaper veteran with 30 years of experience as a reporter, editor and publisher. He is currently publisher of Bicycle Retailer & Industry News, a magazine he helped found in Santa Fe, N.M., in 1991. Today it is a leading trade journal in the bicycle industry with an international base of subscribers.Sani is also the former publisher of New Mexico Magazine, a widely read consumer magazine in the travel and tourism arena. Sani, a former reporter for the Associated Press, has worked at several western newspapers during his career. He also helped launch New Mexicos Environmental Law Center in the 1990s. He is a backcountry skier, hiker, sea kayaker and cyclist.Rounding out the investment team is Felix Magowan, chief executive officer of Inside Communications, a Boulder media company. The company publishes VeloNews, a leading international journal of competitive cycling, and Inside Triathlon, a leading publication among multi-sport enthusiasts.Magowan is a former competitive cyclist who, with several partners, bought the underperforming VeloNews in 1988 and turned it into the industrys most consistently profitable cycling magazine. Magowan is a cyclist, hiker and skier with deep knowledge of the West, its history and environmental issues.We think we have a great staff at Mountain Gazette with John, Chris, Carter and Marisa on the staff. And the addition of Carter will help improve our sales reach, said Gibb, noting that the new owners bring a wealth of publishing experience and love of the outdoors to the venture.While we want to maintain the overall appeal of Mountain Gazette, we also hope to make some significant improvements over the next year, Gibb added. They include improving the print quality, the Web site, and reviewing and expanding distribution.Currently, the magazine claims a circulation of 65,000 with a 10-month publishing schedule. Starting next year the magazine will be published monthly with the goal of increasing circulation to 100,000 copies per month.