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EARTHWATCH

Environmental Magazine Success Bucks Trend : Ventura County-based Earth News has grown steadily while many major publications are in decline.

September 09, 1993|RICHARD KAHLENBERG | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

A Ventura County publisher's environmental magazine is bucking the trend in publishing. Judy Rae, an Oak Park resident, publishes Earth News, a nationally circulated bimonthly with a print run of 100,000.

In the last few years, while the biggest magazines such as Time are losing readers and advertisers--and Life magazine has been cut back to half its former size--Rae has brought her publication up from a slim newsletter published out of her home to a 50-page, advertising-filled success.

That's the same number of pages as Time has these days, by the way, and Rae will soon be up there with the big leaguers in yet another way. She'll be printing on slick paper, heretofore unavailable in environmentally friendly recycled form.

The slogan of her periodical, appearing right under the title on the cover, is "More Than An Environmental Magazine," and that, it seems, is part of the explanation for her survival.

"The others in the field are (seeking) the environmentalists," she says. "We're trying to hit Middle America." She went on to explain: "I grew up in the San Fernando Valley. And when I go back there and see what's happened to the environment, that's why I started the magazine."

Strict environmentalists, she speculates, might not go for stories on what movie stars are doing to save the planet. "They're easy to read and keep you up to date on the environmental issues involved," she says of such treatments.

Also, her idea of what's environmental reaches beyond the usual.

"It's more than just the oceans and the air," she says. "It's every part of life--the entire environment," as she explains her editorial policy. So she lets Adam Rogers, her editor-in-chief, run health and fitness articles stressing how we can save the planet while saving ourselves and computer articles explaining how e-mail saves trees. Says Rogers: "The environment is everything--the reality of peoples' lives such as having a job and feeding a family."

A particularly bold editorial array will be featured in the next issue, due out in October. The magazine speculates that the decline of the Maya civilization in the Yucatan was caused by an agricultural decline brought about when the top people in that civilization monopolized political power and technical knowledge. These leaders failed to train anyone to follow them. As a result, the magazine argues, the ignorant masses made a mess of everything--including the soil and irrigation systems.

The whole gamut of magazines devoted to the environment is going through changes. Doing well are publications that have expanded their definitions of the environment to include investments, nutrition, shopping and travel. One, devoted entirely to travel, is entitled just GO! and has just been sold to a mainstream publisher of airline magazines. In fact, this publication, soon to be retitled EcoTraveller, will be provided free to passengers on Northwest Airlines in an attempt to gain subscribers. This is anything but a hard-core environmentalist audience.

The trade organization devoted to consumer trends in tourism calculates that eight million people last year booked a tour that had some sort of environmental theme. The Travel Industry Assn. of America hasn't been known as a "green" group heretofore, but it sure has begun to catch on to the emerging travel habits of its customers. (A classic example of the old political adage: "If the people lead, the leaders will follow.")

Judy Rae, sitting at her kitchen table in east Ventura County four years ago, pasting up the initial issue of Earth News, seems to have gotten out ahead of the pack, however. She has taken care to put together a tasty concoction to hold her customers.

Special note for Earthwatch readers: The city of Thousand Oaks is presenting a symposium, "Economic Recovery and Environmental Awareness," Friday from 7:30 a.m. to noon at the Howard Johnson Hotel in Thousand Oaks. There will also be a Recycled Products Fair with free samples and information on how to get into this business in Ventura County. For information call 497-8611, Ext. 319; or call 499-1993.

* FYI

For subscription information about Earth News Magazine call (818) 597-8733. For information on EcoTraveller, call (800) 285-5951.

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