When I took over as editor in chief of Down East last summer, I inherited things expected and unexpected. Having worked at the magazine for six years, I knew I'd be moving into a spacious and sunlit third-floor office. What I didn't anticipate was finding a grass hula skirt and coconut bra left behind, inexplicably, in the office closet. This discovery made me take a closer look at the editor in chief's job description.
Among my other inheritances was a set of green, leather-bound volumes containing the collected issues of Down East, from 1954 to the present. I made a point of rereading these back issues lately, and one of the things that struck me is how gracefully this magazine has managed to change over time without ever seeming to do so. The issues from the 1950s sported whimsical, wood-block prints on their covers. Today we use glossy four-color photographs with a protective ultraviolet-resistant coating. You couldn't ask for more of a contrast, until you actually begin reading the stories inside, and then you recognize that the Down East sensibility — that wry wit and hardboiled affection for all things Maine — has remained constant over five decades. Our compass still points proudly north by east.
This is all prologue to saying what you've already noticed — this issue of Down East looks different. Our departments needed freshening up after a dusty decade, and we've taken the opportunity to rearrange some elements and air out others. You'll now find our ever-popular "Where in Maine?" column right at the beginning of each issue, where it should be easier to find. We've greatly expanded our "Inside Maine" department by merging it with the dining, book review, and calendar sections, and added a new monthly getaway. We've also increased the prominence of the nostalgic "What's in a Picture?" photo by moving it to the last page where it's paired with the column formerly known as "I Remember" — now retitled "My Maine" to reflect its important role as your soapbox in Down East. Beyond that, we've tidied the magazine up a bit. We hope you find it easier and more enjoyable to navigate.
One thing that hasn't and won't change is Down East's essential identity as a magazine for people who love Maine (and occasionally we recognize the need for tough love here). In my office I have a stack of back issues to remind me of the magazine's enduring vision. I also have a hula skirt whose exact editorial function I hope never to discover.