The Long Trail News is GMC’s membership magazine. In 2022 the magazine celebrated its Centennial with a special edition examining the past, present, and future of the magazine. Here, we take a look at the Long Trail News design, layout, and contents of the magazine. With our increased focus on digital communications and a general decline of print news, we are once again examining the purpose and role of the magazine as a part of the club’s suite of communications.
December 1922. Founded by Edward Sprague Marsh, “The Green Mountain News” is “designed to impart to members and others interested in the Green Mountain Club the latest news of the Club and the Trail, and to constitute a record of the activities of the Club down to date of publication.” The first issue had five pages, but the page count settled at an even four until 1940.
December 1925. The paper’s name changed. “The name ‘The Green Mountain Clubhouse’ having been officially changed to ‘Long Trail Lodge,’ it has seems best to follow suit and adopt a corresponding title for this paper. The reason is the same in both cases: the new name is more distinctive.” In April 1928, the trustees voted to publish bi-monthly, and made a plea to the sections to provide enough updates, news, and material to support such a publishing schedule.
October 1939. J.A. Allis reported the death of Marsh in June 1939. For years it has been believed that the August 1939 issue was missing. Upon further review of club records, it seems likely the issue was skipped because of Mr. Marsh’s death.
November 1940. A new editor was named, and the magazine got a flashy new look. The new series featured a cover image and was a pocket-sized 16-page booklet with a single column of text and illustrations and photos throughout.
Wartime threw the club, and its publication, into disarray. The April 1944 book covered three issues, and acting editor L.B. Puffer explained the schedule change and the new budget. “First, of course, an apology is due to all the members of the club for the delay in the appearance of the News. There is really no good excuse, but there are reasons…. However, here is an issue, and, since it takes the place of two or three regular numbers, we can afford to make it a little more voluminous and include more illustrations without exceeding the limited appropriation of the last annual meeting.”
By August 1944, the publication returned to a simple, four-page, two-column newspaper-type layout, the result of both a limited budget and limited submissions. GMC Corresponding Secretary Lula Tye wrote, “Time goes by very quickly, and if you send in everything you can, then it will not be difficult to get the material together for the printing. Come on, let’s all get busy and send in lots and lots of good material for the News.”
The magazine saw few changes in the next decades. It was the primary member communication, so it included detailed reporting of trustee meetings, annual meetings, intersectionals (club-wide camping and hiking gatherings), and reports from sections. “Lighter fare” included poetry, trip reports, letters from hikers, and a few photographs. Its length increased with time.
In May 1985, editor Jeffrey Silman revealed an updated format, cover design, and paid advertisements. The Board approved these changes warily: “Concern was expressed, however, that the News not be changed drastically or become a slick magazine.”
Sylvia Plumb oversaw two thoughtful redesigns during her editorship. In Fall 1992, she writes, “We introduce this new look with the hope that we have developed a cleaner, easier to read, more modern publication, while maintaining a sense of the Club’s history and tradition.”
Just six years later, Sylvia did it again. “Why the change? We needed to communicate better with you. Articles about the goings on at the club left no room for features and photographs about GMC volunteers, history, or sections and little room for discussion of trail issues. To remedy this problem, we have added eight pages and redesigned the format.” — Winter 1998. Sylvia introduced departments such as “Trail Mix” and “Mountain Views.”
Sound familiar? The magazine kept this 32-page, full-color, feature-and-department format for 20-plus years. In Winter 2020, we scaled back to 24 pages considering pandemic pressures, staff capacity, and the increased focus on digital communications.