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Readers abandoned Sunset magazine because of owner mismanagement. Publishers, take note

Readers abandoned Sunset magazine because of owner mismanagement. Publishers, take note
Sunset Magazine covers. (Los Angeles Times)

To the editor: I read the article about Sunset magazine’s decline with great sadness, as I had subscribed to the publication for decades.

At its height, Sunset was a combination of religious text and practical guide for living in the West, and the magazine’s headquarters in Menlo Park, Calif., was a temple. It was exciting to visit there and see the ideas one had read in the magazine embodied in, for example, the company’s garden.

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Over the years I never missed an issue of the magazine, I bought Sunset books, and I visited Menlo Park more than once. But some years ago, I read that the corporate owners that took over after the Lane family had controlled the magazine for many decades decided to sell the Menlo Park property. I immediately canceled my subscription, because this seemed like a betrayal.

This seems to be a perfect example of how publishing is going. Corporate interests undervalue the very things that create a loyal readership, and when the readership declines (along with advertising revenue), they pronounce this to be an inevitable result of a new technology.

Glenna Matthews, Laguna Beach

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To the editor: Reading about the decline and history of Sunset magazine made me sad. I worked at Sunset in the late 1970s, when it was still in the hands of the Lane brothers.

When I started my employment at Sunset, I was taken around the two office buildings in Menlo Park and introduced to every single employee, from one of the Lane brothers himself to the guys on the loading dock. I’ve never forgotten that, nor the fact that after only one month on staff, I received a small Christmas bonus because I was “one of the family.”

Our subscribers were part of the family too. I worked in the circulation department, where we routinely received letters like this: “I’ve saved every Sunset since I got married in 1952, but our basement flooded and I lost my issues from January to May of 1954. Can I get duplicates?” We’d send them.

I felt so appreciated and privileged to work there. I hope the new corporate ownership takes a look at the Lanes’ model and can save this beloved Californian institution.

Norah McMeeking, Santa Barbara

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