BOSTON — Our state is different. This has been Vermont Life's battle cry for 50 years, as the magazine tries to boost tourism by protecting the environment.
Editor Tom Slayton doesn't pretend that the state-owned quarterly's glossy photographs and warm feature stories constitute hard-hitting journalism.
"We avoid controversy. We have a very clear editorial philosophy - to cultivate tourism," says the native Vermonter and veteran reporter who took over the magazine in l985.
The magazine's first issue, in l946, helped start the New England fall-foliage boom with gorgeous pictures of Vermont's maples. Tourists started flocking to the mountains and streams they saw so elegantly conveyed in the magazine's pages.
Now, Vermont Life has national influence. Seventy percent of its 90,000 subscribers live out of state, and the magazine has inspired other regional publications throughout the country, such as Southern Living, Arizona Highways, and Oklahoma Today.
One writer even credits Vermont Life with helping preserve Vermont's special charm. In l964, Dartmouth professor Noel Perrin mournfully predicted that by the next generation, most of the state "will look like central New Jersey with hills." Now, pleasantly surprised that Vermont is still Vermont, Mr. Perrin has lauded the magazine for attracting "back-to-the-landers, college-trained carpenters [and] idealistic business types."
Mr. Slayton says that as the nation's most rural state, Vermont frets about the loss of its dairy farms and struggles to protect the purity of its streams and mountains. Certainly his magazine's photo essays on blazing red leaves in the Green Mountains, clusters of covered wooden bridges in the Waterville-Montgomery area, and a male indigo bunting nesting atop the Connecticut River hardly mesh with the "Wal-Martization" he so opposes.
Slayton has no problems with Vermont's pro-development governor. "We don't do politics," he says candidly.