Bob Sacks’ High Times: 35 and growing (no pun intended)September 23, 2009
My friend Bob Sacks, of Bosacks.com fame, has had many jobs in journalism than I can count. However, one of his earliest print on paper inventions was the magazine High Times. The magazine celebrates its 35th anniversary with its November issue. I have decided to ask Bob some questions regarding this mile stone of the magazine that once was dear to his heart, but now he is “so long removed from High Times.”
SH: When you started High Times in the mid 70s did you foresee such a publication to continue publishing after all these years?
BS: No. The thought of the magazine lasting 35 years never occurred to me. I was 23 at the time and my viewpoint of the longevity of High Times or any of my other previous publications never occurred to me. Those were intense times for politics, for publishing, and the terrific young group that we assembled to produce that magazine. Everyone who was involved knew that High Times was a unique publication. Its over-whelming success was a remarkable thing to behold, but I never considered for a second a thirty-five year run. I would add that if you asked me then, I might have said sure, why not? But at the ripe age of 23, negotiating million dollar contracts, assessing quality issues, and the coordination of a large staff, I didn’t consider the future, but rather only the present conditions of how and when I was going to get the next issue to the printer.
SH: Do you think magazines like High Times are affected more or less with the internet and on line digital options?
BS: I am so long removed from High Times that I can’t answer that question with any specificity. I do know that the editorial focus today of High Times is actually very different than in the politically charged 1970s. I have no idea what they are doing now and how affected by the digital age they are. In general, I believe the success of any magazine; whether or not it is printed, digital or both; remains completely with the quality and uniqueness of the content. Quality content and the success that it brings is substrate indifferent.
SH: Does High Times still have a place in Bob Sacks’ heart?
BS: Oh yes, a very warm and affectionate place. Without High Times I would most likely have had a completely different career. Where else could I have had such a set of senior management responsibilities and learned the business at such a young age? All the staff empowered each other to perform in an industry where our publishing counterparts, for the most part, were twice our age. Our staff was intelligent, quick to learn, and resourceful. This was on-the-job training on the fly and in the heat of battle. It also affected my career in some very special ways. I knew at the time that I didn’t know everything that a true seasoned professional knew. That self-awareness was very helpful, and I have had a thirst for more knowledge ever since then. I believe because of that early experience I am still able to say when I didn’t know or understand things and ask for clarification or explanations. That kind of openness is the best way to grow and learn.
High Times was very much like a university experience. And the HT University graduates of the 1970s have spread wide, far and successfully in the publishing industry. Yes, those schooling years are very near and dear to me.
SH: Thank you Bob. And for those of you who sometimes wonder about my friend Bob and his “solutions” to our magazine problems, I hope this little history lesson from “the good old days” shed some light on what Bob was smoking, sorry I meant, publishing in the 70s. Enjoy and congratulations to High Times on a 35 years of growing in “?X@# on paper.”