ScienceWriters: The Life and Death of California Wild

In March 2006, the California Academy of Sciences closed its venerable natural history magazine, California Wild. The magazine was just six months shy of its 60th birthday.

Begun as a two-color paste-up called Pacific Discovery, which focused on academy expeditions, it had evolved into a full-color magazine with professional writers, world-class photography, advertising, and even newsstand sales. California Wild still followed academy scientists into exotic places like Madagascar and Sao Tome, but included discussions of advances such as DNA barcoding, the latest attacks on teaching evolution in public schools, and how climate change will affect California and the West.

As the magazine's last managing editor, I experienced firsthand the events culminating in California Wild's demise. Like so many other closures in the universe of publishing, the final decision to shutter the magazine came down to money. But in my estimation, a combination of ingredients led to the magazine's closure. Some factors were within our control, more had to do with the broader decisions of the academy's board of directors, but what ultimately sealed the publication's fate were the larger forces impacting membership magazines all over the country.

(NASW members can read the entire article — and the rest of the Winter 2006-07 ScienceWriters — by logging into the members area.)