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Publisher’s Note: March 2022

Publisher Troy Johnson on returning to the San Diego Magazine offices

I found a half-eaten bag of pistachios in a desk drawer. They are pandemic years old. Left here in this downtown skyrise mid-snack when the world broke.

San Diego Magazine’s office—with a view of Petco Park, the ghost of Horton Plaza, the majestic comma of Coronado Bridge—has been mostly dark for two years. For decades, this 11th floor was a buzzsaw of creative people, sketches, storylines written on walls, local chefs making tacos in the kitchen, bartenders mixing drinks in the conference room. And for over 700 days that culture was scattered.

This morning, I hear it starting to rumble back to life. In the office next to me I hear the caffeinated New York radio voice of Gillian Flynn, our new chief creative officer. Gillian—whose father was vice president of Random House, who spent her early years as a hard-nosed AP journalist, who can walk into a room and immediately identify 35 stories, who has enviable taste in vintage apparel—is an idea tornado. She’s the one, along with my wife, who helped me see the vision of turning San Diego Magazine into a modern media dynamo.

I wake up every morning to a handful of messages from her sharing new ideas—sketching the future of SDM. A few hours earlier, part of that future walked into our office—Jeremy Sazon, a filmmaker, his first day on the job. For 74 years, San Diego Magazine has told the stories of extraordinary local people with stark words and stunning photos. Starting today, we’re also a video production company. We make tiny films—about food, drink, art, homes, events, the city and its people and culture, and the brands that partner with us.

David Martin is in the other office next to mine, creating a text-message editorial initiative, moving us “to the cloud,” editing our Happy Half Hour podcast—all while somehow also listening to a baseball podcast. Down the long corridor, I can hear the infectious laugh of Veronica Graham, our accountant and grounding force for our band of creatives, who can, at times, wander like kites.

I hear that inspiring hum of creative people tinkering in the same physical space. It’s a benevolent form of mass hysteria. Anyone who has ever experienced it knows the rush when one idea piles on another and then another until—dear God, we found it. The idea.

We are here creating our own frontier—just like the people in the cover story of this real estate issue, undertaking a great migration from city life to the long- overlooked hills of San Diego County.

It’s been three months since Claire and I took stewardship of SDM, and it’s been everything we expected—wild, experimental, chaotic, exhausting, inspiring, heartbreaking, life-affirming. We are working 16-hour days to create a remarkable, artful, incredibly alive media for the city we love. I have never felt so creatively awake. Every night I am completely drained; every morning I am intensely alive.

We have flipped the lights back on. We have found old, abandoned snacks. We wander the halls of SDM and see an entire city’s history on the walls and in the library. Reading those old words and seeing those classic photos, it’s pretty easy to find “the reason” for all of this, the vital necessity of storytelling.

This issue, you’re starting to see some of the changes manifest with amplified art and illustrations, and vivid writing. We have launched a mini-avalanche of online content at We are tinkering with live “TV” series on social media. It’s all thanks to the creative people we admire, gathering in small spaces and obsessing over stories.

Much, much more to come.

SD Mag Office

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.

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