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Everyone who picks up a magazine reads it differently. Some people flip right to the back page, a piece of real estate publications often reserve for satire or a personal essay or a crossword puzzle. Others thumb directly to the food section, should there be one. Still others find the features and eschew the rest of the stories writers and designers and photo editors have labored over. I’ve learned this, no lie, by watching the people ahead of me in grocery store checkout lines. Each time I see someone pick up a copy of 5280, I try to guess which kind of reader that person might be—but I also always hope for one thing. I want both the twenty something with the frozen pizzas and the grandma clutching Grape-Nuts to start at the beginning.
Magazine-makers call the first grouping of stories the “front of book,” or FOB. Despite its unimaginative moniker, the FOB is to a magazine what appetizers are to a dinner out: the varied, creative, tasty snacks that whet the appetite. Each month, features editor Spencer Campbell cooks up a roster of bite-size stories for 5280’s FOB, called Compass, that are meant to delight, entertain, inform, provoke, and, above all, encourage readers to keep on reading. Campbell makes it look effortless, but combining newsy bits (see “Glenwood Canyon Finally Looks Like Its Old Self Again”) with clever arts coverage (like “Banksy Art is Coming to Denver, but Banksy Doesn’t Want You to See It,” and insightful Q&As (“This Littleton Resident Is Hoping to Turn Evangelicals Into Climate Believers”) in a way that flows seamlessly is more challenging than it appears. He does, of course, have equally adept collaborators in deputy art director Sean Parsons and photo editors Charli Ornett and Sarah Banks, all of whom, as Campbell puts it, “continually amaze me with their ability to turn any story we throw at them into, well, art.”
All of that is to say: After you’ve impulse-purchased Tic Tacs and hopefully a copy of 5280—I’m watching you, Guy Who Loves Steak—try reading the magazine in the way we’ve coursed it out. I think you’ll like it. But if I’m wrong, it’s OK to turn to the last page and eat dessert first.