Going Viral

Craig OuthierApril 25, 2020
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Somewhere, in a parallel universe almost identical to ours – minus a certain, pompom-shaped pathogen – you’re reading a May issue of PHOENIX magazine devoted to summer getaways in fabulous Las Vegas. You will soon flip through 18 pages of dining recommendations, spa rankings and tips for the best shows on the Strip, and perhaps spend a little time perusing our monthly Phoenix Files, Explorer and Curator sections, reading about the current Arizona legislative session and the like, all unsullied by mention of COVID-19.

Sadly, that universe – and magazine – is only science fiction now.

Instead, we live in a world of Zoom happy hours, DIY face masks and massive uncertainty about the future. You, your friends and family, the Valley, the entire globe has been swept away in a flash flood of coronavirus news and mercurial public policy. That’s probably what you’re thinking about. Not tea tree facials at the Wynn.

“You, your friends and family, the Valley, the entire globe has been swept away in a flash flood of coronavirus news and mercurial public policy. That’s probably what you’re thinking about. Not tea tree facials at the Wynn.”

To be completely candid, this new, ultra-fluid news cycle initially left us at PHOENIX feeling a bit overmatched. As your favorite (we hope!) monthly publication, we’re purpose-built for deep, thorough, meditative dives into local dining, travel, news and business. We take our time to refine and polish every issue. It’s the city magazine way. But not the coronavirus way.

So we adapted. Midway through our production cycle in March, we shelved the aforementioned Vegas cover story and pivoted to the hiking-focused package you’re about to read, recruiting our resident hiking czar, Mare Czinar, to curate a tidy collection of high-country hikes suited both to the late spring, and to social-distance-minded readers who yearn to explore and exercise responsibly.

Inevitably, the May issue changed in other ways. Both our esteemed columnists – Amy Silverman and Jim Sharpe – ruminate on the pandemic this month, each providing a personal perspective on a shared ordeal that can feel monstrously depersonalizing. We continue that theme with Food Survivors, writer Marilyn Hawkes’ heartbreaking profile of six Valley food-service pros, and how they’re navigating the devastated restaurant industry. Lastly, we shifted much of our bandwidth online, with coverage on phoenixmag.com and on social media (#PHXTogether).

At the same time, we realize that many of you read PHOENIX to escape a bit, to unplug from the news feed, so we kept portions of the “service journalism” originally slated in the May issue – namely, the Calendar events and Eat Beat sections. State authorities say the virus may peak in Arizona in late April, so it’s not outside the realm of possibility that some restaurants, festivals and concerts will be open for business come May. Call it a display of optimism.

Naturally, we added disclaimers everywhere to call ahead and check availability. This issue of PHOENIX has more disclaimers than a Lipitor commercial, I’d hazard to say.

Even as I write these words, I know they may feel utterly dated and off point by the time you read them in two weeks. They are, as Silverman aptly summarizes her own writing on page 22, “a time capsule” of our unprecedented current moment. I can only ask for your forebearance, and to join me in imagining a better universe ahead of us.

For more than 50 years, PHOENIX magazine's experienced writers, editors, and designers have captured all sides of the Valley with award-winning and insightful writing, and groundbreaking report and design. Our expository features, narratives, profiles, and investigative features keep our 385,000 readers in touch with the Valley's latest trends, events, personalities and places.