When PEOPLE was born back in 1974, our up-close-and-personal brand of journalism was new, even revolutionary. "We hope to come at everything fresh," founding editor Richard B. Stolley wrote in our inaugural issue. "To reassess the old familiar faces. To welcome the new and eager. To peer into the lives of the hitherto undiscovered." Some critics labeled us fluff, but we clicked with readers immediately. "You have not only entertained us, but inspired us, raised our awareness of national and world issues, even made us mad at times," one reader wrote me recently. "I was hooked from the very first issue." That loyalty—from 36 million of you—still motivates us each week. It's also made PEOPLE an American institution.
The media has changed in our wake. In 1974 there were no national weeklies devoted to pop culture, no entertainment news shows, no such thing as a Barbara Walters special. The field is more crowded now, but we continue to thrive—perhaps because whether it's Britney or Baghdad on your mind, we always do our homework.
But that doesn't mean we've lost our sense of humor. There was the time we asked several readers to step out in the Versace dress J.Lo wore to the 2000 Grammys, or the ode associate editor Mike Neill recently penned in honor of Lord of the Rings star Viggo Mortensen ("Viggo's here—and what a hunk! With eyes to make a maiden drunk..."). Still, we're proudest of the stories of everyday heroes like Kathy Harrison, a foster mother to 100 children with special needs, or Frank Guajardo, a Texas teacher who has helped the children of migrant workers gain admission to Ivy League colleges, or the valor of the 9/11 firefighters. We've never shied away from hard stuff: families in crisis, missing kids, the ravages of too many wars.
Looking over 30 years of photos as we created this issue, I was struck by the richness of that editorial stew—not to mention all the famous faces who've graced our pages: Jackie and John Jr., Julia and Audrey, Diana and Grace, and seven Presidents too. They've all been part of a great conversation, one we hope is going strong three decades hence. Don't know what we'll be talking about then. But we can't wait to tell you all about it.