CW comes of age

Spring 2006

Winston Churchill said, “History will be kind to me because I intend to write it.” In much the same vein, I intend, on the occasion of CommonWealth’s 10th anniversary issue, to say a few admittedly biased words of praise for the magazine I am proud to publish, and especially the team that puts it together four (and occasionally five) times a year, led by our very talented editor, Robert Keough.

CommonWealth is unique. It is the only magazine of its sort anywhere. There are, in some other states, magazines on state government, on tourism, and on business matters, though these are shrinking in number, even as magazines on shopping, wealth, and celebrity proliferate. California Journal gave up publication in January 2005 after 35 years. New Jersey Reporter recently resumed publication after a yearlong hiatus. But even at their best, none of these other magazines has the editorial ambition of CommonWealth, which is to be not just a trade journal of state government but rather a journalistic forum for exploring the dilemmas and possibilities of civic life. And none draws the same community support in the form of sponsorship. More than 100 sponsors and over 125 major individual donors (our Citizens Circle) provide material support to the magazine and to MassINC. This breadth of support is a strength that grows by the day.

In each issue, our editors grapple with a big challenge: how to enliven and elucidate the politics, ideas, and civic realities of our state. From Robert David Sullivan’s novel analyses, in 2002 and again this issue, of the 10 states of Massachusetts politics—a franchise he has taken national with the acclaimed Beyond Red & Blue series, still available (and still drawing traffic) on www.massinc.org—to Michael Jonas’s in-depth reporting on such meaty topics as the future of health care, the middle-class housing squeeze, and the challenges of minority political leadership, CommonWealth does something no other publication does, in each and every issue.

And I am pleased that we were able to add staff writer Gabrielle Gurley to the CommonWealth masthead. She has already produced for the magazine two outstanding profiles of public-agency managers even as she manages the IssueSource.org Web site, maintained in partnership with State House News Service, on a daily basis.

I am especially proud of the thorough treatment the editors gave to both health care and growth & development in two full-length extra issues produced in the last two years. In both cases, CommonWealth’s reputation for fairness, depth, balance, and insight attracted broad-based consortia to underwrite the special issues. In both cases, we had labor and business leaders and the full spectrum of interest groups at the table as sponsors. That these backers would put their faith in a journalistic venture over which they had no control is a testament to the quality of CommonWealth’s journalism.

Other magazines like it don’t have its ambition or its breadth of support.

But what I like the most about CommonWealth is what I learn from it every issue. It’s not light reading, I will admit. But it is unfailingly thoughtful and insightful. Every issue is a crash course in civics, Massachusetts-style, something that’s increasingly hard to come by—in print, on the air, or on the Web. In today’s world, the profusion of information and proliferation of opinion make balanced, thoughtful sources of news and analysis ever more precious. CommonWealth meets that ever-growing need.

Being publisher, I’ve found, is like being the owner of a brand-new car, but riding in the back seat as it barrels down the highway. You don’t quite know where your drivers are taking you, but you have faith—and hope for the best. For my part, I have full confidence in my drivers, and I’m glad to be along for the ride. Serving as publisher of this still-young magazine is a joy and a privilege.

It’s also a joy to present to you CommonWealth’s new look —full color throughout, with a striking new design, developed entirely in-house under the leadership of art director Heather Hartshorn, and with advice and input from many friends and advisors. I hope it pleases our readers, and our sponsors, as much as it pleases me.

Meet the Author
As for history, I’m sure it will be kind to CommonWealth, whether I write it or not.


   Ian Bowles