In 1996, a 12-year-old Las Vegas girl named Hydeia Broadbent made a speech to the Republican National Convention, bringing it to “a tearful standstill” with her story of being born with AIDS to a drug-addicted mother. It was her mission to put a different face on the disease, to widen the country’s understanding of who the victims are. She was a sensation. She became a big story, a national story, refracted again and again through endless media outlets.
That wasn’t the story Desert Companion told. We told a much different, less conventionally inspiring story. Catching up with her for our August 2011 edition, writer Steve Friess recounted what came after the limelight: a sad and tragic story of “a fractured family with versions of their history so incongruous as to be irreconcilable,” featuring a young girl who’d lived well beyond the point her doctors told her she’d die. She was still trying to get her life back together.
As we spend this year reflecting on Desert Companion’s first decade of publication, there’s a lot we’re proud of. A strong commitment to reader service, being a prime example, whether it’s food stories that introduce you to palate-expanding new cuisines, or travel packages (see Page 50) that, ha, tell you where to go, or culture guides that urge you to experience this city’s boundless creativity. We profile everyday people who make this a multilayered, richly textured place to live. We disinter the region’s fascinating history.
But we’re particularly proud of some of our outstanding features and journalism. Stories like Hydeia’s, which might have been reduced to a dry stack of facts and quotes in a newspaper, but here, in these pages, was contoured into a human story, told with the empathy, length and narrative drive that distinguish the best magazine writing.
Perhaps you remember our July 2014 issue, with Heidi Kyser’s patient, comprehensive and exquisitely told investigation into the life and death of disgraced local physician Ralph Conti — beloved by his patients even as he was ensnaring some of them in a bogus stem-cell scam. Another piece that no other publication would have or could have done.
Not long after that, in February 2015, Heidi was back with a hard-hitting account of the possibility that naturally occurring asbestos is marring some land near Boulder City, and that some people’s health might be affected. Last August, she reported on the spotty state of rural medicine in Nevada.
That same issue was fronted by a cover story in which writer Stacy J. Willis probed the day-to-day life of Charleston Boulevard, a lively and energetic ribbon of history, commerce and micro-cultures that spans the valley. Perhaps only Desert Companion would have bothered to knock on the door of the last house on Charleston and ask what it was like to live there.
We’ve always thought of these pieces, and many more like them — covering medicine, education, the law, culture, and much more — as another form of reader service. They flesh out your sense of the city with a more nuanced understanding of the people and issues that make it what it is, and what it might become.