There is no objective standard for beauty, in a farm, a magazine or a website.
So maybe we should rephrase the question: “Are we aspiring to beauty?”
In every media business, managers have to decide how much to spend on aesthetics. The movie director makes decisions about the costs of sets and lighting. The magazine publisher decides how many art directors to hire and how much to spend on photography, paper and printing.
We spend a lot less on our appearance than the big fashion magazines. A bit more, probably than some of our competitors who publish magazines about solar energy or farm machinery. We try to strike a balance. For us, we must admit, contagiousness – and its product, profit – are higher priorities than “beauty.” But that doesn’t mean we don’t aspire to be beautiful.
The photographs we feature in the magazines and on the websites must be beautiful to our audiences. The subject matter is the principal element of beauty. Our production values need only be beautiful enough. One reader might find a Scottish Highland bull quite beautiful. Another admires a Minneapolis Moline tractor or a classic BMW motorcycle.
It’s our job to reproduce photographs, art and video footage beautiful enough for our audiences to appreciate. We recalculate that balance every day.
We also have an office, of course, where we have the opportunity of enhancing appearances. We could hang more art and cultivate more houseplants. We could maintain the outside of the building a little better. Our building is a very simple commercial structure in a very plain industrial subdivision, but every little bit helps. This year a group of my colleagues planted two plots of vegetables in front of the building and they made us much more beautiful. Someday we might even renovate a more elegant older commercial building, make it energy-efficient and invest more in aesthetics. Someday, maybe.
In the meantime, yes, we aspire to beauty. And we create some beautiful things, judging with our own eyes and the eyes of our audiences. But of course it’s only through the ongoing daily aspiration to beauty that beauty is achieved. So, we keep it up.
Bryan Welchis the former Publisher and Editorial Director of Ogden Publications, the parent company of MOTHER EARTH NEWS.