Tradition dictates that to celebrate an anniversary, one gives a formal, tangible gift. But the logistics, not to mention the cost, of handing out actual trinkets to 50,000 print subscribers and roughly 40,000 daily digital newsletter readers are, regrettably, prohibitive. To commemorate 5280’s three decades of covering Denver, a milestone the magazine reaches this month, I thought I’d instead share what I think is the most valuable lesson I’ve learned during my 22-year journalism career, all of which has been spent within these walls.

Ready for it? Be generous.

That may not seem like an axiom one would glean from an industry built on delivering the truth at all costs. And if I had worked at another media company, my takeaway might’ve been very different. Fortunately, 5280’s founder, Dan Brogan, hired me when I was 22 years old and—in ways both direct and indirect—helped instruct my view on what it means to be a journalist worthy of telling other people’s stories.

Throughout 5280’s 30-year history, Brogan has not personally approved every decision his editors and reporters have made, but he hasn’t had to: We have always known that along with his good-journalism-is-good-business motto, he also believes in a good-people-make-good-journalists maxim. And so, for our team, being generous has meant understanding that many people have never spoken to a reporter before—and that it can be intimidating. Being generous has looked like telling sources a little bit about yourself so they can see you’re human, too. Being generous has meant holding sources’ hands in hospital beds, in courtrooms, at funerals. Being generous has involved taking blankets to a source experiencing homelessness long after a story has been published. It has meant deciding not to run a story that took months to report and write because the primary subject’s mental health had become too fragile. It has included asking a question again (and again) to ensure you understand the necessary nuance. It has meant leaving out details that, as a reporter, you desperately want to include but that could’ve threatened someone’s safety.

I could be wrong, but I don’t think every editorial team has the imprimatur of the CEO to practice that rigorous-but-generous style of journalism. And I could also be biased, but I believe that’s a big part of what has made 5280 successful.

Here’s to many more years.

David McKenna, Art Director

Illustration by Arthur Mount

For more than 13 years, 5280’s design has been stewarded by one of the best in the biz. In that time, David McKenna has thoughtfully evolved the look of the pages to visually engage readers and reflect a sense of place. There’s no question he’s realized his vision year after year. But evolution is an ongoing business, and to coincide with 5280’s 30th anniversary this month, McKenna undertook his fourth redesign—embracing an aesthetic he describes as strong, simple, and a little sophisticated. He didn’t do it alone, of course. Deputy art director Sean Parsons, photo editor Charli Ornett, and deputy photo editor Sarah Banks all leaned into the idea of pages with more white space and larger imagery. Among many other things, McKenna eyeballed a multitude of typefaces and pared back the color palette to let images and typography shine; Parsons reinvented page grids throughout the magazine and discovered new illustrators who will complement the design; and Ornett and Banks have plans to produce more shoots, which aligns with a renewed emphasis on more authentic photography. The result? A magazine that evokes the Centennial State’s wide-open spaces and Denver’s urban landscape while also highlighting the diverse array of people who call this place home. “We want every page in this redesign,” McKenna says, “to visually elevate the best of Denver and maybe inspire ideas for making it even better.”