January 4, 2010, was my first day at Desert Companion. Christopher Smith and I, comprising the magazine’s entire editorial staff, took up our cubicles in a nondescript backroom that was formerly Nevada Public Radio’s music library. We’d presumably been hired as the magazine’s first in-house talent because of our deep well of publication editing, production, and design experience, but I distinctly recall Chris and I staring at each other in mute bewilderment and paralyzed cluelessness for, like, 19 minutes. But, I should say, bewilderment and cluelessness imbued with a sense of possibility. Desert Companion had launched in 2007 as a seasonal guide to arts, culture, gardening, and food, an evolution of the station’s annual Southern Nevada Almanac. Under the zealous vision of Publisher Melanie Cannon, we were charged with rapidly growing Desert Companion into a full-feather city magazine. Long story short: Blah blah blah, worked super hard, music montage of adventure and happy toil, put out a bunch of issues. Ten years later, we’ve grown both in staff size and relevance, and we’ve become home not to just service features that celebrate the valley’s vibrant arts, culture, and dining scenes, but home, too, to serious narrative journalism and thoughtful perspective that, particularly in an era where discourse is angry link-spamming on Facebook, seems increasingly rare. Happy 10th birthday to us!
I’ll leaven that flurry of self-congratulation with this confession: Putting together Desert Companion is actually pretty easy. Oh, it’s certainly work — not infrequently, it’s voraciously time-eating, soul-stretching work. But it’s never felt hard. I think that’s because our work is a natural expression of our relationship to Southern Nevada — the collective curiosity, wonder, frustration, enthusiasm, cynicism, weird defensiveness, and other points on the gauge that our needle quivers over every day. In that sense, I feel lucky to work with colleagues who vibrate on the same frequency and do incredible work — shouts out to Art Director Christopher Smith, Deputy Editor Scott Dickensheets, Staff Writer Heidi Kyser, Senior Designer Scott Lien and Graphic Designer Brent Holmes. And I also feel lucky that what interests, amazes, and intrigues us strikes a chord with you.
Anyway, this fat berfday issue has just too much to properly hype in the 200 or so words I have left. Highlights: First and foremost, we — and by we I mean Christopher Smith coming in hella early for months and working at home on the weekends — have completely redesigned the magazine from flag to folio. The idea is freshness, yes, but also fluidity in how we tell stories, bringing in more visual flair, and experimenting with form. We mark the milestone in other ways, too. On page 79, we consider the past decade through a series of essays, some refracting through public, personal, and political strata, others mining the love/hate thing with Las Vegas for sometimes giddy, sometimes uncomfortable laughs. But they all illuminate, in some way or another, this strange, radiant place. On page 44, veteran political reporter and commentator Steve Sebelius interviews Gov. Sandoval, who discusses both policy and the more personal dimensions of public service. On page 68, Heidi Kyser checks in with the Trump administration’s possible rollback of national monument designations in Nevada, considering in particular the often-marginalized point of view of our state’s native tribes, whose long stewardship of the land suggests that they might have some wise counsel to offer. And I’d be remiss not to mention our Fall Culture Guide (page 94), the spiritual nucleus that gave rise to the Desert Companion of today. In it, you’ll find a burgeoning calendar of art, music, dance, theater, and festivals well through the new year. It’s an issue you’ll want to keep around. Which reminds me: Thanks for keeping us around.