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In March, The Zephyr will start its 14th year and I'm "clinging as hopelessly to the past" as ever. Maybe more so. This publication has seen a lot of change and has made changes of its own. Now I'm thinking about making another change, although not so dramatic or far-reaching.

To assure The Zephyr has a strong and viable future, I need to broaden its scope--I'm looking for more out-of-town advertisers and vendors, and writers to cover issues across the Colorado Plateau. And to be totally blunt, I'm also trying to find new ways to generate revenue for this shoe-string operation. These are weird times and I don't know what to expect next year. It's true, I have deliberately limited my options--I don't have corporate ads and I don't seek out national chain motel or fast food ads. I don't apply for grants and I don't have a trust fund. This publication depends almost exclusively on locally owned and operated small businesses to survive. And throughout the country, locally-owned, independent publications like The Zephyr are a vanishing breed, either going belly up or being swallowed whole by bigger media companies.

I feel confident The Zephyr runs no risk of a corporate takeover--it's much too unpalatable to be eaten by those guys. And I don't feel as if we're in jeopardy of going under, but I do worry that it might shrink. And I'd hate to see that happen. Without content, what's the point?

Now I have this idea and I'm bouncing it off as many people as I can. I call it "The Zephyr Backbone." I want to create a page of key supporters ("Friends of the Zephyr?" "Zephyr Vertebrae?"). It's a way that individual readers could help support The Zephyr and keep its voice loud and clear. The Backbone Page in each issue would show the cartooned faces of about 30 Zephyr readers who are willing to shell out the equivalent of twenty-eight cents a day--$99.99 a year (The old ninety-nine, ninety nine trick).

Except for the faces themselves, The Backbone would always change--it would reflect the theme of each issue. The possibilities are endless. All of you know how stupid and goofy my ads can be. That alone should be an inspiration to you.

So The Backbone person, for his or her investment, would receive the original cartoon, a years's subscription, their caricatured face in six issues of The Zephyr (about 85,000 copies) and posted on The Zephyr web site home page, and my eternal gratitude (Or at least for a year). At the end of that year, you could re-sign with the same face, or pose for a new caricature, or I could draw your spouse or partner. I could cartoon your dog. If you want anonymity, I can draw you with a paper sack over your head. (REMEMBER: For this to work, you need to send me a fairly clear, close-up--head-and-shoulders snapshot of yourself.)

The Catch here is getting you to sign for the entire year. I'm simply incapable, physically and mentally, of drawing 30+ new faces each issue in addition to the advertising. I just can't do it. So it's an all or nothing proposition; I've considered payments, but the accounting logistics are beyond me--this really IS a one-man operation in most respects.

OK...I'm beginning to feel like Ron Popeil ("If you order now, you'll also get this lovely bamboo steamer!"), so I'll stop. But this is the only idea I've come up with that seems viable. The Backbone would not start until next March, with the April/May issue. BUT if you're interested, let me know SOON.


Jim Stiles