Ready to know more about San Diego?


Publisher’s Note: January 2022

Publisher Troy Johnson on the year ahead for San Diego Magazine

God, I love magazines. As I’m writing this, it’s been three weeks since we drove into the desert, walked into a carpet-smelling law office—our rescue terrier Miles Davis in my lap and Claire nine and a half months pregnant—and signed papers to become the new owners of San Diego Magazine and all its media creations.

We immediately got back on the road, a bit disoriented by what we’d just done, a bit nervous our baby might be born in the snack aisle of a Murrietta gas station. The news alert hit the internet as we headed south on I-15. My phone exploded.





Four hours later, we stood in front of the SDM creative team—20-plus people who believe in the art and power and magic of media—and answered why.

The last few years have been big-question years. We all spent time on the existential porch, gnawing on the who-are-we. For the last decade (admittedly, decades in my case), Claire and I have worked in local and national media—me at San Diego Magazine and Food Network, her in New York. A good portion of our lives together have been spent creating media, consuming it, sharing it, poking and prodding it, mapping out dreams and futures for it.

As the pandemic groaned on, our big questions increasingly pointed toward home. How could we use what we’ve learned to meaningfully contribute to the culture around us? What good thing were we capable of building for San Diego?

You hold part of our answer in your hands. This is us, investing everything we are into where we live. Into the future of local media. Thanks to you 40,000-plus subscribers supporting the work of local creatives, we’ve been able to grow SDM into a whole new-media world with online content, video series, podcasts, social media, e-newsletters, custom publishing (where we create original media for local brands), live events, and experiences. All told, SDM reaches about 800,000 people every month. For those people—for you—we threw ourselves into the evolution of this.

For me, this is personal. I was born in San Diego, never left. As my TV and writing career evolved, people much smarter than I offered the same advice: leave. Move to L.A., New York. I politely listened, and politely refused. Because if all of us who gave a damn about our city moved away, the culture would pretty quickly become terrible. I watched musicians move to Portland in the early 2000s, watched writers and artists and entrepreneurs move to Austin, San Francisco, Asheville. They moved toward opportunities because there weren’t enough of them here. It’s important to Claire and I that we’re part of creating those opportunities. We’re not going to be able to give them all a home. But if we hire some, another content house hires some, and so on—collectively, we can build a creative culture and stop the brain drain.

A lot of the changes you’re going to see will be in digital ideas and concepts—video, e-newsletters, podcasts. We’re also launching a creative studio, partnering with local brands to tell their stories. But this magazine is the rock the whole media company is built on, and we’re going to give it the love and art it deserves.

Yeah, magazines. The “vinyl record of media.” Call me an anti-futurist, a vintage human. But as much as I dote on my devices and their intoxicatingly frenetic ways of storytelling, I love magazines. I love the aesthetic jolt of a stunning photo printed on a glossy page. Next to art like that, good writing feels great, great writing feels divined, and people and places are imbued with far deeper meaning. No matter how far I zoom in, my phone can’t recreate the power of a glossy, full-page photo of the Rady Shell’s pearlescent acoustic panels. Or convey the architectural wonder that is the almost-finished MCASD La Jolla.

On the page, you can see the gravel on the wheels of roller skaters reviving an entire subculture in Mission Beach and Chula Vista. On the page, a donut looks like an optimist’s retort to the existence of black holes.

At its core, though, SDM isn’t about buildings or brands or skates or donuts. It’s about the people who built that brand, rebuilt that roller rink, fried that fritter. We tell stories of people, which in turn tell stories of a culture.

Since 1948, San Diego Magazine has weathered every storm—economic, industry-specific, or social—because it is a deep stitch in the fabric of the city. Claire and I have hundreds of pages of notes and ideas on how to retrofit it for the modern age. We’re going to take all those ideas, and ignore 90 percent of them. Then we’ll pour the best 10 percent into the evolution of SDM. And keep going.

We have the team—awesomely creative people with wild ideas. And we have you, who will tell us what you want to see and read and hear. We want nothing less than to build a world-class media company for this city. Something you’ll be proud to point at and say “this is San Diego.” It’s not going to happen overnight. But every day, the lever turns a little more on the new SDM.

An immense and humble gratitude for longtime publisher Jim Fitzpatrick and all of you who got us here. Can’t wait to show you where we’re going next.

Troy and Claire Johnson

By Troy Johnson

Troy Johnson is the magazine’s award-winning food writer and humorist, and a long-standing expert on Food Network. His work has been featured on NatGeo, Travel Channel, NPR, and in Food Matters, a textbook of the best American food writing.

Share this post

Contact Us

1230 Columbia Street, Suite 800,

San Diego, CA