The first issue of WSM, from winter 2001.
PULLMAN, Wash. – Ten years ago, Tim Steury took WSU’s alumni, faculty and staff to a sunny slope above the Walla Walla Valley and introduced them to an emerging phenomenon: Washington wine. At the time, the state’s wine industry had grown from 15 wineries in 1980 to more than 160.
“Conveniently, some of the best wineries in the state are owned by or employ WSU alums,” Steury said in a Washington State Magazine (WSM) feature that stretched across nine pages and 5,575 words. It was the first feature in the first issue of the magazine, which this Friday, Oct. 14, celebrates a decade of award-winning stories and design by publicly thanking the hundreds of people who have graced its pages.
Fittingly, the public 4-6 p.m. reception in the Terrell Library Atrium will feature wine from many of the state’s vintners, who now number more than 700, as well as a variety of foods indigenous to the state.
WSM grew out of a university marketing campaign that, while giving rise to the phrase, “World Class, Face to Face,” also spawned the notion of a four-color alumni magazine. At the time, Steury was editor of Universe, a magazine about WSU research that twice a year went to a limited audience of 7,000.
When Mary Gresch, then-associate vice president for strategic communications and marketing, asked Steury if he would edit the new magazine, he asked for editorial independence – a rarity in university publications. She said yes, and Steury started editing the magazine alongside Pat Caraher ’62, editor of the monthly alumni newspaper Hilltopics.
“This is actually a demotion,” Steury joked recently, “because I used to be head of the Universe.”
WSU connections are everywhere
Several people proposed more atmospheric names for the magazine, like Endeavor. But Steury said the name Washington State Magazine prevailed when someone at a WSU communications advisory meeting said, “You’re trying to take over the state, right?”
“I said, ‘Yeah, my mantra is: Just as we’re Washington state’s university, so are we Washington state’s magazine.’ ”
That focus and approach prevails today, said Steury.
“The story possibilities are endless,” he said, “because faculty and alumni are basically involved in everything. You can come up with a story idea and find somebody that will fit the roles and be associated with WSU.
“The university is the world in microcosm,” he added. “Anything that’s going on, we have some connection. We have somebody thinking about it at a minimum, if not prominent in the field.”
Stories cover the globe
Reflecting the magazine’s tagline, “Connecting You to Washington State University – The State – The World,” staff and freelance contributors have over the past 10 years filled more than 2,000 magazine pages with dispatches from throughout the state as well as Honduras, the Republic of Georgia, Ukraine, Ethiopia, West Africa, France, Italy, Switzerland, New Zealand and Antarctica.
Meanwhile, the editorial staff has grown and diversified. Hannelore Suderman, former Palouse bureau chief for the Spokesman-Review, is associate editor and senior writer. Larry Clark ’94 is assistant editor and Web editor. John Paxson is art director, and Eric Sorensen, another former Palouse bureau chief for the Spokesman-Review, is science writer. Barbara Olson is advertising manager.
Trusted by readers
Steury said he has been encouraged by the response of readers. Surveys show they are particularly interested in university research and its application to the state and the world. Steury said he’s also heartened by the trust the readers put in the magazine.
“I like to think of us as providing a prism,” he said. “We provide a focused look at what’s going on in the world. If we have somebody who can comment on college athletics, like Thabiti Lewis in this next issue, or shock dynamics, like Yogi Gupta, or Shakespeare, like Will Hamlin, people may not know the person personally but we all belong to the same organization, so there’s an implicit trust in that.”
In the most recent survey, conducted earlier this year, two-thirds of the readers said they read most or all of each issue. More than 80 percent said they read every issue or most issues, find the content excellent or good, and agree that is strengthens their connection to WSU.
And while the magazine has never asked for contributions outside its ad pages, more than one-third of the readers said they have donated to WSU as a result of reading the magazine.