You may have noticed KMC doesn’t have a “Letters to the Editor” section. It’s a fairly unconventional omission. Most magazines have one. We never have. Not that we don’t enjoy the letters or emails we receive, because we do, and we read every one of them. Our staff continually debates the merits and drawbacks of printing them, and we always decide not to. There is rhyme and reason.
Many of our readers are established or aspiring writers. Each week, we get funny, brave, introspective and original ideas about mountain culture that readers want to write about for us. And when we debate publishing unsolicited reader opinions against queried reader story ideas, the ideas always win. Quite frankly, we feel the most constructive use of our editorial space to is to inform and inspire you through stories, to expose our readers, to new or challenging concepts, exciting adventures, difficult realities or tales wholly unexpected and off-kilter.
That being said, our resolve not to publish letters is often tested internally. The reaction to our last issue was no exception. Our cover, which featured a trapper with numerous pelts on the wall behind him, was from a feature titled “Ensnared,” written by Emily Nielsen and photographed by Kari Medig. This piece about Kootenay trapping culture caused a fair bit of controversy. We had one shop and a backcountry operator refuse to carry the magazine. We even had someone write us a series of scathing letters telling us that dozens of readers she knew had chosen to boycott our magazine. She then wished “shame” upon us.
We have been in the publishing business for over a decade, and in publishing “Ensnared” we knew what we were getting into. We were aware some people wouldn’t like seeing pictures of cute little forest creatures hanging from traps. Judging from reader reaction, we were surprised that dead animals elicited such a strong response compared to the photograph of a child’s corpse tied to a stake on the summit of a foreign country (page 104 of the same issue). But truth be told, the longer we do this, the more compelled we are to not shy away from reality; our mandate is to report on all facets of mountain culture, not just those that are easy and comfortable.
Whether you agree with us or not, Kootenay Mountain Culture Magazine has become not only an important voice for the Kootenays, but for mountain culture in general. We consider that a fairly big deal. And if we’re to truly honour this culture, we need to tell a wide range of stories: the good, the bad, the beautiful, the ugly, the strange, the overt, and everything in between. We also need to tell those stories with integrity and honesty—and always without judgment. That’s what good publications do. We also have a bigger responsibility: we’re representing a place. A home. The word “Kootenay” in our title reflects that.
As for the letters, please, keep them coming via snail mail, email, Facebook, and accept our advance apologies for not publishing them. But don’t just write to us; take what inspires or upsets you in our pages to the coffee shops, the dinner parties and the backcountry lodges. Discuss them there, with people from here, transplants from there, and visitors too. Because there’s nothing better than smart, engaging, passionate conversation. That’s what makes a healthy home.
Photo: Kari Medig