Looking for magazines with a local cultural focus
June 1, 2012 4:56 AM   Subscribe

What are the best small local-history/culture magazines or publications in North America?

I've just become the chairperson on the board of a local publication of long standing. It has suffered from a declining readership and, frankly, spotty quality over the past decade. In the last year, a new editor and designer have taken the reins, both volunteers and without much experience but with lots of enthusiasm.

The magazine serves a largely semi-rural population with a couple of large towns and a mid-size city in the mix; its focus is non-fiction, but it's written for general access and is not a scholarly journal.

I'm looking at this as a chance to start a longer-term revitalization of the magazine, and I thought the best way to go about it would be to seek out exemplary magazines that have the same rough characteristics as ours, and look at what other publications are doing with success.

Here's a list of six characteristics that I think define the magazine, more or less in order of importance for what I have in mind:

- Geographically defined;
- Non-fiction;
- Articles on past history and current culture*;
- High quality of writing and design;
- Independently owned and locally published/distributed;
- Regularly published.

*culture not just meaning music and the visual arts, but culture in the more traditional sense as well: professions, traditions, etc.

Don't feel entirely bound to hit all six of the above, but the top three are pretty important. Feel free to colour outside the lines if you think you have a line on something amazing. The "Small Farmer's Journal" has come up as an interesting publication that works as an example: it's not bound by geography but by a culture, yet still kind of falls into our wheelhouse.

posted by Shepherd to Media & Arts (11 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I think a good model would be Arizona Highways. It's a gorgeous magazine and it's put out by the Arizona Department of Transportation (okay, not independently owned, but talk about taking something boring and turning it into something awesome.

I also think Sunset is a great publication, although that's more located in the Southwest, rather than a specific rural area.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 5:57 AM on June 1, 2012

Best answer: Twisted South might be a bit broader in geography than you are looking for, and it has a very particular aesthetic, but I think it's a great example of a small scale publication.
posted by kimdog at 6:13 AM on June 1, 2012

Best answer: You might look at The Schoharie County Historical Review and Kaatskill Life.
posted by jgirl at 6:21 AM on June 1, 2012

Best answer: Minnesota History hits most of your targets. Well-designed, well-written; a pleasure.
posted by Bourbonesque at 6:33 AM on June 1, 2012 [2 favorites]

Best answer: If you are willing to be a little flexible on your definition of culture and I think you are then the Minnesota Conservation Volunteer magazine might be worth a look.

It is specific to the state, and it focuses on things related to nature, but in the past few years it has covered education, scientific topics, first-person narratives, family customs, etc., etc.

It's free, published semi-monthly, and it features really stunning photography. I think very highly of it.
posted by wenestvedt at 7:08 AM on June 1, 2012

Best answer: This Land is Tulsa-based, but covers all things Okie. It'e relatively new, but is growing rather quickly (they're even doing some local tv programming now). I really like what they've done so far.
posted by Ufez Jones at 7:13 AM on June 1, 2012

Best answer: Michigan History is one of the oldest of its kind and is till going strong.
posted by Chrischris at 8:29 AM on June 1, 2012

Best answer: Garden and Gun is my favorite, but it's a bit glossy for some tastes.
posted by Ideefixe at 9:06 AM on June 1, 2012

Best answer: I really like Our State, which covers North Carolina.
posted by clerestory at 10:40 AM on June 1, 2012

Best answer: I really like the Oxford American.
posted by trip and a half at 3:05 PM on June 1, 2012

Response by poster: Fantastic answers, everybody! I've asked for and received magazines from about half of the mags on this list (asked for from all, received from a few). It's going to be a huge help when revitalizing the magazine I'm working on.
posted by Shepherd at 6:04 AM on July 4, 2012

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