In Search of the Good Life

By Thaler-Carter, Ruth E. | Communication World, May-June 1990 | Go to article overview

In Search of the Good Life


Thaler-Carter, Ruth E., Communication World


Communication professionals work from urban townhouses and rural farms; they work in glitzy corporate towers and on cozy waterfront houseboats. They churn out employee news sheets and act out theatrical productions, oversee staffs of hundreds and rely solely on themselves. For the 20th anniversary of Communication World, we took a look at a few communicators who live and work outside the mainstream to see what the profession has to offer the inner self over the long run.

Herb McLean:

COMMUNICATOR/NATURALIST or veteran corporate communicator Herb McLean, life is and-as in the grand vista from his office on top of a 1,400-foot mountain on Orcas Island in the San Juan Island archipelago, about 100 miles northwest of Seattle, Wash.

McLean, 60, has lived on Orcas Island for the past six years, conducting a communication consulting service from his home with the aid of modem technology: fax machine, answering machine, two computers and printers, copy machine-"I'm quite automated, there's no way I could live here without automation." By contrast, his woodstove-heated home is at the end of a long, rough, heavily wooded rocky road. He has physical contact with the mainland by a ferry that delivers passengers right to the freeway.

McLean boasts "a rather checkered professional background." He started out in newspapers in Southern California, worked in corporate communication in California and Utah, owned an advertising agency in Utah for five years, and taught a magazine course at Brigham Young University. "It might not be the most lucrative work, but what I do now is what I really want to do," McLean said. "I have to work very hard, but I don't have the financial concerns out here that you do in the urban, corporate environment."

McLean's work today involves, primarily, freelance writing about forestry and aviation for several magazines, including American Forests and Forest World; as contributing editor to Rotor & Wing International and, for kicks, not cash, Law & Order. He also does occasional corporate consulting such as a recent project for U.S. Bank that involved writing a combined history of three banking organizations along with a slide-sound production that were the major pieces in a bank merger and transition process; and a centennial piece for the Seattle-Tacoma Box Co.

One reason that McLean and his wife-who works with him as editorial assistant, photo archivist and manager, researcher and support staff-moved to the great Northwest was to have access to Alaska for writing projects and personal exploration, McLean said. "I've been there about 30 times"-including a month-long trip to the Tongass Natural Forest, and two weeks at Valdez.

"I can see across Lopez Sound about 150 miles to the southeast-I can see the top of Mt. Rainier on the clearest mornings," said McLean. "I'm in heaven right here on earth."

Diane Chapin, ABC:

A SUBURBAN LIFESTYLE

There are more doctors, lawyers, dentists, Arab sheiks and horsebreeders than independent communicators in the tony "hunt country" of Potomac, Md. Long-time IABC member and corporate consultant Diane Chapin, ABC, 47, balances a successful career and comfortable family life in this posh Washington, DC suburb, thanks to her constant vigilance toward professionalism and the willingness of her husband to take on nontraditional roles in childcare and homemaking for the couple's three daughters.

"What's nice is that I sit in a large office at a lovely mahogany desk with a beautiful view from the window, said Chapin, who went into business for herself in 1977 but had a separate office in downtown Washington, DC until last year. She decided to work from home when "I realized that the cost of rental space downtown, in view of the number of hours and days I would have had to work to cover that expense, was ridiculous."

"Home" is a spacious, three-story house, complete with horseshoe drive, garage, front yard and open ground in the back, on a quiet street off a two-lane road that winds gently past the sprawling horse farms and mansions of the old and nouveau riche, five miles from the Washington Beltway and about two miles from Potomac's town center. …

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