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Outside Magazine Executive Editor Axie Navas: Yep, we’re getting more political

The magazine has been critical of Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke and Donald Trump’s views on immigration.

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Outside Magazine Executive Editor Axie Navas Courtesy Axie Navas

Outside Magazine advertises itself as a guide to “gear, fitness, travel, culture, and adventure.” But in recent years, under Executive Editor Axie Navas, it’s also getting political: Climate change, Donald Trump’s remark about “shithole” countries and his Secretary of the Interior, Ryan Zinke, are all fair game.

Before she left Vox Media to join the team at Wired, our friend Lauren Goode spoke to Navas about that shift. The executive editor said it’s part of a very conscious effort to engage with political issues.

“We get a lot of comments that are like, ‘Why is Outside political? I’m not here for politics,’” Navas said on the latest episode of Recode Media. “We have conversations about it: ‘Should we be covering this?’”

“These particular issues, like public lands — we so clearly should be covering it that it’s not a question of, ‘Can we stop?’” she added. “It’s, ‘How do we respond to those readers and have a conversation,’ to say, ‘This is why we’re covering it.’”

However, on some issues, the staff is more explicitly taking sides. In 2017, when some of its readers objected to a survey on sexual harassment, the magazine urged them to unsubscribe. Navas said that some people did, indeed, un “Like” Outside’s Facebook page after that post, but the viral post also brought in a slew of new “Likes.”

“We want that voice to be young and punchy and contentious, sometimes,” she said of Outside’s voice on social media. “The stories reflect that, too: We have more essays, more strong, authoritative opinions. And that does seem to resonate, based on Facebook insights, with younger people.”

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On the new podcast, Navas also talked about her efforts to diversify who writes for the magazine and — crucially — who is written about. The vast majority of historical Outside covers feature white men, she said, but starting this year the staff is aiming to have just as many women as men featured there.

“We’ve had a hard look at how we’ve covered women in the past and, basically, Outside’s lack of coverage of women,” she said. “That was the kickoff to the effort to fix that.”

“I would like to see us continue to skew less towards athletes and more towards just people who love the outdoors,” Navas added.

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