The magazine by Westerners, for Westerners
Nowhere in the United States matches the West’s dynamism. By virtually any metric — population, ethnicity, climate, economy — it’s quickly changing, yet those changes receive little coverage from mainstream media.
Bitterroot is an online magazine that will chronicle the West’s politics, culture, economy, and environment with writers and photographers who actually live here. We’ll cover everything from innovation in Silicon Valley to endangered species, always from the perspective of people who live, work, and play throughout the West.
Because while every Westerner may be different, there is one value that unites us: We love the place we call home. With your help, Bitterroot can be the magazine for those who want to feel more connected to our region.
Bitterroot’s writers and photographers will help readers understand the West’s most important stories. Each Friday, you’ll receive at least one longform feature or photo essay, plus a few shorter articles that explain critical news and ideas.
Some early Bitterroot features will focus on:
- The unique family-planning circumstances Native Americans face
- Life on the Arizona-Sonora border
- Utah's attempt to get air pollution under control while retaining its industry-friendly reputation
- The activists, educators, and parents attempting to remake New Mexico's public education system
We promise that each story we publish will meet the following criteria:
Regional importance: Let’s say you live in Boise. If we publish a story set in Albuquerque, or San Diego, or the Nevada badlands, it will be worth your time. That’s because Bitterroot covers topics that affect all Westerners: economic growth, public lands, environmental justice, and the like.
Multidimensional: Bitterroot covers the politics, economy, culture, and environment of the West, but most of our stories will blend those disciplines. We’re going to examine political decisions that have ecological ramifications, and cultural trends that could change a city’s economy. Our goal is to synthesize the West’s most complex stories so we can better understand where we live.
Consequential: We’re not publishing lists. We won’t gladhand. Every story that appears in Bitterroot is about something fundamental to being a Westerner.
WHO WE ARE
Managing Editor Maggie Mertens grew up in suburban Seattle before leaving the West for Massachusetts, Brooklyn, and Washington, D.C. to launch a journalism career that took her from NPR to Bloomberg to Glamour. Four years ago, Maggie realized the Northeast was not the center of the universe, no matter how much the magazine world insisted it was, and moved back to Seattle to shed light on under-reported stories and get back in touch with her rapidly changing hometown. Her work has been published in Glamour, The Atlantic, Pacific Standard, The Cut, Deadspin, ESPNw and The Guardian, among others.
Editor in Chief Jake Bullinger spent most of his life in the rural West. He grew up in a mining and ranching community in southwest Wyoming before eventually moving to Salt Lake City and Tacoma, where he was a copy editor at The News Tribune. Bitterroot is the third magazine Jake has helped launch, and his writing about the West has appeared in Fast Company, Outside, The Atlantic, High Country News, and other publications.
In addition to Maggie and Jake, a network of 50 journalists scattered across the West will help produce Bitterroot each week. Our writers, photographers, and illustrators are experts in everything from space to ecology, and all of them care deeply about the places they live. Meet a few of our contributors:
Sarah Scoles is a freelance journalist who lives in Denver. Her work, largely about scientific culture, has appeared in WIRED, Outside, NOVA, Motherboard, and other publications. She is a contributing editor at Popular Science and the author of the book Making Contact: Jill Tarter and the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence. @ScolesSarah
Jacqueline Keeler is a Navajo/Yankton Dakota Sioux writer based in Portland and author of the forthcoming Standoff: Standing Rock, the Bundy Movement, and the American Story of Occupation, Sovereignty, and the Fight for Sacred Lands. She has written about Native American culture and politics for The Nation, Salon, The Daily Beast, Quartz, and many other publications. @jfkeeler
Emma Penrod is a Tooele, Utah-based journalist and historian who specializes in the intersections of science and business. She writes a weekly water-politics newsletter, and has penned stories for The Salt Lake Tribune, High Country News, Sierra, and Newsweek, among others. @EmaPen
María Inés Taracena is a multimedia journalist in Tucson. Originally from Guatemala City, she has written and produced audio stories about migration, LGBTQ issues, and education for Tucson Weekly, NACLA Report on the Americas, and Arizona Public Media. @m_ines_taracena
WHAT WE VALUE
Patient journalism: Bitterroot will post stories once a week. We’re doing this for a couple reasons. For one, it gives our journalists the time to report and construct important, factual stories — not aggregate a few tweets. And two, it allows you, the reader, to filter through all the noise and receive only the most important stories about the West.
Diversity: Bitterroot readers will be exposed to a wide array of topics and ideas. Our stories will introduce you to people you’ve never met and solutions you’ve never considered. And they will be produced by journalists who reflect the region’s racial and cultural make-up.
The reader experience: Bitterroot won’t look like other news websites. There will be no auto-play videos or clickbait at the bottom of stories — in fact, there will be no ads at all. Our written stories will be clean and easy to read; our photography illustrative. Reading Bitterroot stories will be enjoyable, like sitting down with a print magazine of old and knowing you’ll want to finish it cover to cover.
Just as Bitterroot is produced by and for Westerners, it also will be funded by Westerners. As a subscription-based site, we’re beholden to nobody but our readers. Every story in Bitterroot will be free of influence from advertisers or donors. This will allow us to pursue the region’s most important stories for the readers who care about them most. If you want this kind of journalism, you can help us make it happen — it’s that simple.
The West: We love where we live. And while our reporting will highlight problems and issues the West faces, we’re also going to focus on solutions — if a problem seems intractable, then nobody will try to solve it. By covering the West through values we all share, it’s our hope that Bitterroot becomes a source of ideas and contributes to a better region.
This is what it's all about. Support us at any level and you will be a subscriber! That's full access to Bitterroot: our longform feature stories, photo essays, and the most important news and analysis about the West, publishing every week.
Founder's Club Membership
Support us at any level above $200 and you'll be a part of our Founder's Club. We'll send you an exclusive monthly newsletter with behind-the-scenes details of some of the most interesting stories from Bitterroot. Plus, you'll be our go-to group when it comes to looking for story ideas and soliciting feedback. You'll also be the first ones with whom we'll share exciting company news!
Support us at any level above $25 and you'll get a Bitterroot sticker with our awesome logo, perfect for putting on your laptop, water bottle, or wherever else you'd like to brag about the cool new magazine you're helping launch.
Bitterroot Camping Mug
Whether you go camping, hunting, or just like to feel outdoorsy while you sip your coffee (or seltzer, or whiskey — we don't judge) from your apartment, this mug from Phoenix-based ODYSEA is yours if you support us at any level above $100.
We believe that no one on Earth needs another tote bag, so we're offering the Westerner's bag of choice — a backpack — to everyone who supports us at the $500 level or more. The REI Flash 22 is perfect for a day hike, quick weekend trip, or your morning commute.
Original Bitterroot Framed Photograph
If you support us at the $1,500 level or above, you'll get your choice of an original framed 11x14 photograph showing a slice of Western life from one of our talented contributors.
Fly Anywhere in the West
Support us with a generous gift of $5,000 or more, and you're showing us you aren't just a lover of Bitterroot — you're a lover of this region. So we'll fly you and a friend anywhere in our coverage area for the Western trip of a lifetime. (Restrictions apply).
Many thanks to Sarah Greenleaf, who produced our video, and Mike Forbush, who designed our logo. Bitterroot contributors Melorie Begay and María Inés Taracena provided narration, while Sarah Arnoff, Alisa Reznick, and Louise Johns — also contributors — supplied their stunning photos. Illustrations are by Nikala Bond.
Risks and challenges
Bitterroot is trying something completely new in the media business, at a time when old models are failing, which comes with inherent risks. Focusing on high-quality, regional journalism that caters to readers and not advertisers, we believe, is the future of media — but it can only be accomplished with the support of readers who love the West and want to see it thrive.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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