In This Together

n his terrific little book, Make Hope Real, author Rich Harwood, one of this country’s foremost authorities on civic engagement and change for the common good, argues that most people see themselves as more than mere isolated consumers making claims on public resources without consideration of the public good. People want to be part of something larger, to connect with one another and make a difference in public life. They want hope. Harwood wants to make that hope real. Like many of you, we too have been talking a lot about the economy and what we as a magazine and as individuals can do to respond to the very important challenges we face as a community.

Madison and the region has a disproportionate share of people who care deeply about the common good. But during times like these we all share the problems that make it so difficult to connect with each and make a difference—anxiety, fear, disillusionment, hopelessness. Magazines alone can’t help eliminate those worries. But they can help. As a publication with a mission of service journalism we want first and foremost to give you good, well-researched, properly sourced information, tips, advice and perspective you can use to make good decisions for yourselves and your families. We also want to help our advertisers—many of whom are also our friends and neighbors and valued contributors to our community—connect with customers and get their messages across to folks looking for products and services to improve the quality of their lives. We want to do it well. And we also want to do it with honesty and integrity.

Which means we’re not going to blow smoke at you. This isn’t business as usual. You know it, and we know it. We’re hearing from our share of folks who believe “the media” is a big part of the problem. The bad news every day can be relentless, and it can sap confidence and hope. Some of it is real. Some is perception. And some is legitimate news. The question remains, what can we do—what should we do—in the light of bad news in bad times? First of all, question everything in the context of your own knowledge and experience. Back in the glory days of the civic journalism movement, researchers at the Kettering Foundation found that citizens experienced the important issues of the day—health care, taxes, public safety and education—much differently in the context of their daily lives than what they found in the news. Every day there are news stories of businesses doing well, innovators succeeding and signs of hope. Believe the signs, not what someone else tells you about them.

Our friend Marc Eisen wrote a great piece for on the annual Organic Farming Conference in La Crosse. A surprising number of attendees professed to be “unbothered by the economic times.” Could it be because we see so many of you at Willy Street when we shop there? A recent CNN poll found seventy-three percent of Americans who responded said they were “scared” about the way things are going in this country. But nearly the same percentage said they were doing fine personally. Does that describe what you’re feeling?

We have some recommendations. Enjoy this month’s magazine. There are a bunch of wonderful ideas for living healthier and more frugally together. Come to our Going Green Expo, May 2–3 at the Alliant Energy Center, and learn about eco-friendly, fair trade and sustainable products and services. If your have a choice, support our advertisers will you? They are making a choice by supporting us. And whatever you do, don’t lose hope. Stick together. And let us know what we can do to help.

Neil P. Heinen, Editorial Director

Comments and letters can be sent to P.O. Box 44965, Madison, WI 53744-4965 or e-mail . Letters we publish may be edited for space and clarity.