OKL celebrates 70 years serving electric co-op members
Oklahoma Living magazine just wrapped up 70 years of serving electric co-op members and is ready for the future.
With this edition, Oklahoma Living magazine completes seven decades of existence. On January 1, 1948, the first edition of Oklahoma Rural News (today’s OKL), was published. To institute a monthly statewide publication was no small undertaking. The entire planning and implementation process took place over a 5-year period. The magazine’s publisher, the Statewide Association of Rural Electric Cooperatives in Oklahoma (today’s Oklahoma Association of Electric Cooperatives – OAEC) was established in 1942 as a means to unify the increasing number of electric co-ops being born across the state. One year after the statewide association’s establishment, co-op leaders saw a need for a publication that would communicate the cooperative message to a growing membership across Oklahoma’s countryside.
At the time of the publication’s establishment, the statewide association board had to take a careful look at the economics of instituting a new service to the membership. To allow for expenses to stay below a certain threshold, the board hired a general manager, A. D. Mueller, who was a former journalist and had extensive background in public relations and business administration. Mueller served as OAEC general manager and as the editor of Oklahoma Rural News (ORN) from 1948 to 1949. At its inception, ORN had a circulation of less than 90,000 copies. Today, OKL is proud to print more than 325,000 copies each month. “A need has been felt for a publication which would serve as the voice of the thousands of cooperative members who had banded together locally to serve themselves electricity, and through their respective cooperatives, into a state organization to advance the program until every farmstead in Oklahoma has high-line service,” writes Clarence Reeds, then board president.
As years passed, the electric cooperative industry evolved and experienced continuous change; however—despite a changing landscape—the purpose of Oklahoma Living magazine remained the same: to serve as the voice of Oklahoma’s electric cooperatives by powering the needs of new generations with quality, informative and educational content. For the first few years, ORN was printed in black-and-white on newsprint paper. In 1962, the publication saw its first use of spot color. In 1992, under the direction of then-publisher Bill Roberts, the name of the publication changed from Oklahoma Rural News to Oklahoma Living to better reflect the changing dynamics of the cooperative membership across the state. At the time of its inception, nearly 90 percent of ORN’s readers were full-time farmers; today, less than 10 percent of OKL’s readership is engaged in full-time farming or ranching.
OKL’s current publisher, Sid Sperry, believes Reeds’ vision and aspirations have undoubtedly been fulfilled. In his dedicatory message, Reeds writes about the challenges of establishing ORN and his long-term vision for the publication: “It becomes a challenge, therefore, to build the publication solidly and steadily until it attains the stature and reader-acceptance we so confidently believe will, from the first, be its due.
“The staff of Oklahoma Living magazine has built on the legacy established by co-op pioneers such as Clarence Reeds,” Sperry says. “Our vision is to always move forward, seeking continuous improvement to more effectively serve our member-cooperatives and our member-readers.”
As the OKL staff welcomes a new year, they reflect on their roots, learn from past lessons and press on to the future striving to improve their service to valued readers. Thank you, OKL readers, for your loyal readership!