FOCUS/Midwest was launched with more optimism than cash, but thanks to the singular vision of its founder, Charles L. Klotzer, it managed to survive for more than two decades before it was folded into its sister publication, the St. Louis Journalism Review.
The magazine was an attempt to give a new voice to progressive change in a region that had been written off as conservative and insular. The publication’s defining spirit rested in the hope that people, when presented with new ideas and information, could make informed choices that would make their lives better.
As a salutary editorial, published in 1962 in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, put it: FOCUS/Midwest is “liberal in spirit, concerned with reform and progress, full of ideas, and outspoken.” Although the magazine accepted advertising, it never pretended it was aiming at anything other than a general readership — a community of people with a shared interest in learning. Despite its name, its focus was broad — as the Post-Dispatch wrote, long ago, the magazine was “receptive to an unconfining spectrum of ideas and approaches.”
FOCUS/Midwest attracted some of the region’s most influential names to its pages — Mike Royko, Abner Mikva, Paul Simon, Irving Dilliard, Herbert Schiller, Leroy Neiman, Don Finkel, John Knoepfle, Dennis Judd, Martin Marty, William Carlos Williams, and Harriett Woods. It covered integration, women’s rights, civil liberties, the environment, political reform, urban renewal and development, education reform, transportation, and tax policy. It did so with insight and often humor, but always in depth and accurately. The magazine also showed sensitivity to the region’s unique history and culture. Some of the nation’s best poets saw their early works published in the pages of FOCUS/Midwest.
The magazine never abandoned its vision, although financially it struggled. In the final issues before FOCUS/Midwest suspended publication, it reported on testing fraud in the chemical industry, alternatives to corporate control of food production, and nuclear arms proliferation.
The lifespan of FOCUS/Midwest was bookended by two very different eras — born in hopeful days of the Kennedy administration, it disappeared during Reagan’s first term in office.
In 2008, an independent effort, sanctioned by Charles and Rose Klotzer, was made to revive FOCUS/Midwest as a vehicle for investigative and explanatory journalism. A website was launched to reintroduce the title, and several prototype editions were produced. The effort to revive the publication was abandoned in 2011.