“Double Take:” An introduction to The New Territory Issue 03

A letter from our publisher, Tina Casagrand.



In the spirit of doing double takes, I was going to write this letter about strange things I saw the past few months. There were things defying nature, like a bird nesting outside its species’ range and cherry blossoms in the fall. There are things in this issue, like a wild fawn wearing a ribbon (pg 71), stories hidden in asphalt (pg 47), the strange backstory of Mark Twain’s biographer (pg 81), and an iconic environmentalist’s role in a Midwest fish disaster (pg 37).

Of course, I’d planned this weeks before election day. When Donald Trump was declared president, the world did a collective double take, and I wasn’t sure how to address it. Two days later, Patrick Mainelli was proofing his feature, “A Wild Hunger” (pg 94). Although he pitched the idea as a guide to foraging, the piece had evolved into an essay with more depth and insight than either of us expected. It feels like a modern, Midwest Abbey or Leopold, and I think it’s a gorgeous story. But part of our country was still mired in shock that day, and he wrote back, “To be honest, an article on picking fruit sounds almost naive, or at least entirely beside the point right now.”

What is the point, then? As the nation questions everything from journalism’s reporting process to our distribution, people have asked if this changes the focus of The New Territory. Should we, as someone suggested in Monocle’s print industry podcast The Stack, “find some grit and fire” to campaign for our communities? Should we follow David Brooks’ lead and start a regional conversation about values? I think we already do both, though I know we can do better.

The New Territory is not a political publication (or even a news publication), though I won’t pretend that printing diverse voices from the Midwest is a neutral act. We’re in a unique position to build our region’s narrative. We want to bridge divides between people and places not simply for trust and ratings, but because these are our family. Our neighbors. Our homes.

Most of our contributors live here or are from here. They have a Midwestern appreciation for the subtle beauty of grasslands and worn-down mountains. They’re naturals at talking with friendliness and respect, no matter their differences. They’re also deeply intelligent, compassionate people unafraid to ask important questions. All that changes for this magazine, post-election, is a deepened resolve to connect the Territory story-by-story. We’ll connect raw numbers to humanity. We’ll connect fall blossoms to climate change. While some people don’t care to connect, I believe many do. The New Territory is here for them.

One last thing. This is my favorite picture of my great-grandparents. Since I was about eight months old, they were my sole parental units. Like many mothers and daughters, the relationship with my grandmother was strained, and it was further compounded by her Depression Era toughness, severity of speech, and stubborn rejection of anyone or anything that disagreed with her. When I see this picture though, I remember her goodness because, look: Where’s her left hand, eh? It’s not around Grampa’s waist, and probably not on the barbed wire, either. Nope. Knowing my grandmother, I’m sure her fingers slid down Grampa’s back pocket and most likely gave him a pinch. She wasn’t perfect, but she also taught me how to be confident and more than a little frisky. Sometimes it takes a double take, an extra pause, to see the deeper truths.

I hope Issue 03 gives you some surprises. ψ


For more original narratives, purchase the issue or subscribe to read more independent journalism from the Lower Midwest.



Issue 03 Sponsor: True/False Film Fest

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