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Wild Hope Magazine: Sometimes It Takes A “Wild Hope” To Help Sustain Us & Save The Many Species That Live In Our World – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Kathryn Arnold, Story Curator, Wild Hope Magazine

February 13, 2017

A Mr. Magazine™ Launch Story…

wild-hope-issue485“As you know, print is a very different experience than online. And people consume media in different ways; they consume information in different ways. And it’s been amazing to me to see what has been happening in bookstores; people picking up the magazine and writing to me. Or they’ll pick up Volume II and order Volume I directly from me. The physical presence of the magazine creates its own type of awakening that’s different from what happens on the Internet. Plus there’s just the beauty of the design itself; it’s a very different experience than you get online. One of the things that I’m trying to do with the magazine is to present other species as individuals and as being as real as humans. And I don’t think that you get that when you’re looking at pictures on the Internet. When you see it in the beautiful way that Jane lays it out in the magazine, it has a different, more powerful impact.” Kathryn Arnold (on why she felt her mission needed a print magazine)

We humans have been put in charge of planet Earth. Its water, food supply and wildlife are all under our supervision and dominion. Unfortunately, sometimes we are not the best of caretakers. We tend to put other, more personal intentions ahead of what’s best for the biodiversity of our planet. That’s when checks and balances are called into play. And one of those indicators comes in the form of a new magazine: Wild Hope.

neladio1Wild Hope’s co-creator, or story curator, as she calls herself, is Kathryn Arnold, former editor in chief of Yoga Journal. Kathryn has over 30 years’ experience in the business of magazines, having worked at many titles throughout her career. But it was when she started volunteering at a marine mammal center that she began to realize she knew very little about the planet we all live on. So, she went back to school and got a degree in Natural History. And the rest, as they say, is…well, history.

Today, she is in the business of trying to help save planet Earth and all of its living creatures that are threatened or endangered in one way or another. Bringing awareness through a beautiful print magazine that is elegantly put together and quite a joy to read: Wild Hope.

I spoke with Kathryn recently and we talked about the birth of this beautiful new infant, and about how she plans on sustaining it and using it as a tool for awareness of many of our planet’s biodiversity issues. From a little porpoise in the Gulf of California called a Vaquita, to the individuality of each animal that exists, Kathryn’s passion to help is evident with every page of Wild Hope.

And as we all need, and must have hope to exist; sometimes it takes a braver, wilder hope to sustain something as uniquely complex and beautiful as Mother Earth and all of her inhabitants. So, enjoy the Mr. Magazine™ interview with a woman who has that kind of hope, Kathryn Arnold, story curator, Wild Hope magazine.

But first the sound-bites:

kathrynphoto2On why she refers to her position at the magazine as story curator: I’m calling myself that, a “story curator,” because that’s really what I’m doing. I’ve spent my career as a magazine editor or a book editor, but in creating Wild Hope, what I’m doing is reaching out to my community of veterinarians, wildlife rehabilitators, conservationists and biologists who aren’t necessarily professional writers. I encourage them to tell us their personal stories about the work that they’re doing to help save Earth’s biodiversity.

On that moment of conception with Wild Hope: The story has a few points to it; one, back in 2002 I began volunteering at a place here in Marin County called The Marine Mammal Center, taking care of the animals that we rescued and admitted, then rehabilitated and released back into the wild. And that awakened me to the fact that I knew very little about the ecosystem that I lived in. So, that set me on the path to go back to school and get a degree in Natural History. So, the idea to create Wild Hope came out of that wanting to share the hope that I had and that I had gleaned from being in that community; I wanted to share that hope among the community to lift their spirits.

On the business model for the magazine: I spent 30 years in magazine publishing, so I’m very familiar with the traditional models, both in consumer and B to B publishing. I have years of working within that model. And when I started Wild Hope, my intentions were not to try and emulate that model. It began with becoming a 501(c)(3); I was adopted as a fiscal sponsor of Earth Island Institute, so I am a project of the Earth Island Institute, so that provide me with 501 (c)(3) status. My approach has been to be sort of a crowdsourced magazine, if you will. And to not necessarily think of it as something that’s going to be financially successful in the traditional sense of a magazine, but successful in terms of raising people’s awareness of our need to save our biodiversity. It’s really mission-driven; it’s not financial-driven.

On why she thinks it’s important that the magazine’s mission has a print component: As you know, print is a very different experience than online. And people consume media in different ways; they consume information in different ways. And it’s been amazing to me to see what has been happening in bookstores; people picking up the magazine and writing to me. Or they’ll pick up Volume II and order Volume I directly from me. The physical presence of the magazine creates its own type of awakening that’s different from what happens on the Internet.

On how she feels the role of editor in chief has changed over the years: I’ve certainly seen it change. I began my career at Working Woman magazine in the 1980s and from there went to Savvy magazine, and from there went to New Hope Natural Media in Boulder, Colorado. And then from there to Yoga Journal, and through my career I definitely saw the role of editor in chief changing from one of being an editor and creator of experiences to one of being a marketer. The content selection became all about what’s going to sell the magazine and what’s going to sell advertising.

On her feelings when she held that first issue of Wild Hope in her hand: It was definitely like holding a newborn for me. I’m a very self-critical individual (Laughs), so I can always see the flaws in the work that I do. And because this was something that became so central to my value system; it became a driving motivation for me to get the magazine done and to start this conversation in a bigger way than just talking to friends.

On the biggest challenge she thinks she will face: It’s going to be interesting to see how it plays out. In the first issue, every one of the stories came from either a direct experience I’d had, or from someone who knew someone who could contribute the stories or the photographs. But then after the first issue, I started receiving submissions from people I didn’t know. And that’s been true of the third issue as well. So, I think that’s going to be my greatest challenge going forward. Will that be sustainable, or am I going to have to start assigning stories at some point? Will this organic system of submissions continue?

On what someone would find her doing if they showed up unexpectedly at her home one evening: Actually, I work a full-time job that’s not Wild Hope. I am the marketing and communications manager for Spirit Rock Meditation Center here in Marin. So, if you were to come over to my house in the evenings, what you would find me doing is working on Wild Hope. (Laughs)

On what keeps her up at night: The challenges that accompany the work that I’m trying to do and the work of the people who are contributing to Wild Hope. The challenges to those efforts are what keep me up at night.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Kathryn Arnold, Story Curator, Wild Hope magazine.

wild-hope-1st-issue484Samir Husni: I’ve seen a lot of magazines and magazine mastheads throughout my career, but I have never seen one that refers to a “story curator” as you do for your own position at Wild Hope magazine. Tell me about that new title that you have created for yourself.

Kathryn Arnold: I’m calling myself that, a “story curator,” because that’s really what I’m doing. I’ve spent my career as a magazine editor or a book editor, but in creating Wild Hope, what I’m doing is reaching out to my community of veterinarians, wildlife rehabilitators, conservationists and biologists who aren’t necessarily professional writers. I encourage them to tell us their personal stories about the work that they’re doing to help save Earth’s biodiversity. So, really, I’m curating their stories as opposed to what you would conventionally think of a magazine editor doing, things like assigning stories. I’m not assigning stories; I’m collecting stories. And then I’m shaping them into a magazine that I hope will inspire others to engage in saving Earth’s biodiversity.

Samir Husni: Tell me about that moment of conception with Wild Hope. What clicked in your brain and made you think that you needed to do a print magazine about this topic?

Kathryn Arnold: The story has a few points to it; one, back in 2002 I began volunteering at a place here in Marin County called The Marine Mammal Center, taking care of the animals that we rescued and admitted, then rehabilitated and released back into the wild. And that awakened me to the fact that I knew very little about the ecosystem that I lived in. So, that set me on the path to go back to school and get a degree in Natural History.

And along the way, I met so many other people who were engaged in the work of saving other species. And I found it very inspiring, yet among that community I also felt that there was a great deal of despair.

So, the idea to create Wild Hope came out of that wanting to share the hope that I had and that I had gleaned from being in that community; I wanted to share that hope among the community to lift their spirits. I first thought of it as a website, because truthfully, it was less expensive to do.

But then I was inspired by two former staffers that worked with me at Yoga Journal. I used to be the editor in chief of Yoga Journal. They were two young people on my staff who launched their own print magazine. And honestly, my protégés inspired me to start a print publication, and then I just happened to meet up with Jane Palecek at a “Women in Publishing” conference and mentioned to her my concept. And Jane told me that she would be happy to partner with me on the magazine and help to create it. And of course, Jane was an award-winning designer at Afar magazine and she was also at Mother Jones.

So, it was those factors that compelled me to start Wild Hope. Me wanting to create a place where people in this community who were engaged in saving wildlife could talk to each other and lift each other’s spirits and know that we’re all not alone. There was this huge community of people out there who were endeavoring to save Earth’s biodiversity. I wanted to bring them together in a magazine and lift their spirits. And then when my own protégés inspired me to start a magazine, and meeting up with Jane during that mindset; those factors coming together inspired me to start Wild Hope.

Samir Husni: You’re following your passion, this is something that you’ve been involved with and something that you’ve volunteered for; this is the heart part of launching the magazine. Where does the brain part of launching Wild Hope come in? What is your business model for surviving in this day and age?

Kathryn Arnold: I spent 30 years in magazine publishing, so I’m very familiar with the traditional models, both in consumer and B to B publishing. I have years of working within that model. And when I started Wild Hope, my intentions were not to try and emulate that model. It began with becoming a 501(c)(3); I was adopted as a fiscal sponsor of Earth Island Institute, so I am a project of the Earth Island Institute, so that provide me with 501 (c)(3) status.

My approach has been to be sort of a crowdsourced magazine, if you will. And to not necessarily think of it as something that’s going to be financially successful in the traditional sense of a magazine, but successful in terms of raising people’s awareness of our need to save our biodiversity. It’s really mission-driven; it’s not financial-driven.

We found an amazing printer in Minnesota that can actually print a quality magazine for less than you can have it printed for in China. And I have priced the magazine at a point where we can make the print-run cost with each issue. And all of our contributors are contributing for free. So, that’s our business model. And it’s definitely mission-driven; everybody that’s contributing is doing so because this mission is so important to them, to help raise awareness and to help share the stories.

I am growing the magazine gradually. I started out with zero distribution, and it was picked up by Small Changes, a distributor out of Seattle. They were the first distributor to pick me up. And then most recently, I was picked up by Disticor Distribution. So, we’ve gone from zero distribution in bookstores to, with the printing of the third issue, which is now at the printer, a distribution of 3,400 copies in bookstores. So, I’m growing it very slowly, gradually and strategically. I intend for the magazine to be able to wash its face (Laughs); for it to break even with every issue.

So, the distribution is growing gradually as people discover the magazine, and bookstores have also been contacting the distributors. It’s a very careful strategy that appears to be working. But I’m not creating this magazine for the sake of creating one as a business. It’s all grounded in the mission.

Samir Husni: Why do you think it’s important for that mission to have a print component in this digital age?

Kathryn Arnold: As you know, print is a very different experience than online. And people consume media in different ways; they consume information in different ways. And it’s been amazing to me to see what has been happening in bookstores; people picking up the magazine
and writing to me. Or they’ll pick up Volume II and order Volume I directly from me. The physical presence of the magazine creates its own type of awakening that’s different from what happens on the Internet.

Plus there’s just the beauty of the design itself; it’s a very different experience than you get online. One of the things that I’m trying to do with the magazine is to present other species as individuals and as being as real as humans. And I don’t think that you get that when you’re looking at pictures on the Internet. When you see it in the beautiful way that Jane lays it out in the magazine, it has a different, more powerful impact.

Samir Husni: From your experience as editor in chief of Yoga Journal for many years, and now the story curator for Wild Hope; how has the role of a magazine editor evolved or changed over the years?

Kathryn Arnold: (Laughs) I’ve certainly seen it change. I began my career at Working Woman magazine in the 1980s and from there went to Savvy magazine, and from there went to New Hope Natural Media in Boulder, Colorado. And then from there I went to Yoga Journal, and through my career I definitely saw the role of editor in chief changing from one of being an editor and creator of experiences to one of being a marketer. The content selection became all about what’s going to sell the magazine and what’s going to sell advertising.

I think it moved away from delivering content that was of value first to the reader. I was always tried to balance that in my positions, but the editor in chief’s job has become mainly one of a marketer. And it does also depend on the magazine. Certainly, there are those where that isn’t true, but I think at the really big circulation magazines that is what’s happening. And even at smaller niche magazines like Yoga Journal, special interest magazines; it’s all about that market.

Samir Husni: Once that first issue of Wild Hope arrived and you held that magazine in your hand; what was the degree of satisfaction for you? Was it like holding a newborn baby; or more like, finally it’s done?

Kathryn Arnold: It was definitely like holding a newborn for me. I’m a very self-critical individual (Laughs), so I can always see the flaws in the work that I do. And because this was something that became so central to my value system; it became a driving motivation for me to get the magazine done and to start this conversation in a bigger way than just talking to friends.

It was this feeling of having actualized something from inside me that was of core importance to me and to the people I know. And then to get the really positive response to it, which let me know that I had done something worthwhile and would continue.

Samir Husni: What do you think will be the biggest challenge that you’re going to face raising this newborn?

Kathryn Arnold: It’s going to be interesting to see how it plays out. In the first issue, every one of the stories came from either a direct experience I’d had, or from someone who knew someone who could contribute the stories or the photographs. But then after the first issue, I started receiving submissions from people I didn’t know. And that’s been true of the third issue as well. So, I think that’s going to be my greatest challenge going forward. Will that be sustainable, or am I going to have to start assigning stories at some point? Will this organic system of submissions continue?

It’s been amazing to receive these stories from people I don’t know and who want to be a part of Wild Hope. That feeds my hope that I am on the right path here, but I think that will be my greatest challenge. I just don’t know if that can be sustained. And because I’m being so cautious about distribution and the printing and all of that, I’m not concerned that I can’t sustain the financial model, it’s whether I can sustain my story curation model.

Samir Husni: As I flipped through the pages of the first issue, I can’t remember the last time that I’ve seen a magazine that had the binding sewn; I can actually see the stitches in the binding. It’s not glued or saddle stitched, which gives it that feel of collectability. That sense of, this magazine isn’t going anywhere. You can actually lay the pages flat and they’re not going to break.

Kathryn Arnold: And I don’t want people throwing it away. Corporate Graphics is our printer and they do an amazing job. They are very inspired by the magazine and its editorial. And they’ve given us, what I think, is a very reasonable price, which includes the stitching. I highly recommend them to anyone interested in printing a magazine or something else. It’s great quality.

Samir Husni: If I showed up unexpectedly at your home one evening after work, what would I find you doing; reading a magazine; reading your iPad; having a glass of wine; watching television; or something else?

Kathryn Arnold: Actually, I work a full-time job that’s not Wild Hope. I am the marketing and communications manager for Spirit Rock Meditation Center here in Marin. So, if you were to come over to my house in the evenings, what you would find me doing is working on Wild Hope. (Laughs)

Samir Husni: My typical last question; what keeps you up at night?

Kathryn Arnold: The challenges that accompany the work that I’m trying to do and the work of the people who are contributing to Wild Hope. The challenges to those efforts are what keep me up at night.

For instance, in the Gulf of California, there is a small porpoise that’s on the edge of extinction called the Vaquita. There are probably fewer than 30 left due to the illegal gillnet fishing for another endangered species, a fish called the Totoaba. And it’s all because the swim bladder of this particular fish is prized in China. So, the Vaquita porpoise gets caught in the gillnets and drowns. And although the areas in which they inhabit, the Gulf of California, is off-limits to fishing, the poaching continues. So, the future doesn’t look very bright for the Vaquita.

And that’s the sort of thing that keeps me up at night. There are a lot of people who are engaged in rescuing the Vaquita, and we’re working with the government of Mexico to try and save them. So, that keeps me up at night; will we be able to save the Vaquita, or is it too late?

And I have that story in the next issue of Wild Hope. The question is can we bring enough light to this situation that even if the Vaquita is extinguished, it can be a call to action for the next endangered species? It’s a heroic effort to go in and try and save this little porpoise. But the next time, can we start sooner?

With the magazine, I’m trying to help others see wild species as individuals, because in my wildlife rehabilitation work it has become very clear to me that animals are as individual as humans are. You can’t just talk about a California sea lion; every California sea lion is different and has its own personality and needs just like we humans do. And that’s one of the things that I’m trying to do with Wild Hope. Not just show pictures of gorillas, but show pictures of a specific gorilla that has its own personality, which I believe you can see in the first issue. We’re trying to help people see other species as real as they do human beings. And to show that every species contributes to the web of life, and educate people about what it is that different species do contribute.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

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