{ Plato, Missouri: Center of the U.S. (a new photozine project by Ben Hoste) }

September 25, 2014 § Leave a comment

Have you ever seen Plato, Missouri, looking so good? I hadn’t. But I do really really appreciate when people pay attention to tiny rural places. So I’m really really excited that photographer (and University of Missouri J-School alum!) Ben Hoste is coming back all the way from New York to document a place just 30 miles from where I grew up. If that makes you excited too, you can back the project on Kickstarter!

For the 2010-2020 decade, Plato will be known as the exact population center of the United States, one point on an persistently westward path, which Ben elegantly says, “can be seen as the echo of manifest destiny.” He’s making photozines out of the pictures he’s taking there.

You know what I appreciate? Commitment. This will be the second time he visits and makes a zine. I also appreciate universalizing experiences:

I choose to focus my camera on seemingly momentless situations in an effort to make photographs absent of time. My goal is to explore both a local and universal understanding of America through the people and landscape of Plato, Missouri.

I think Ben makes a good enough case for his project, but just so you know, all my most talented photojournalism friends confirm he’s awesome, too. I’m admittedly a little late to the game (he was already 122% funded when I finally pledged some money), but dangit I want those photozines! If you want one to, go back it yourself, because he’ll only print as many as get backed.

(P.S. – Ben recently finished another local project, “Good Earth: Missouri’s Old Lead Belt.” It’s appropriately beautiful and eerie.)

(P.P.S. – Good Earth reminds me of Stacy Kranitz’s Appalachian photos.)

(P.P.P.S. – Speaking of documenting tiny places, remember that time I did a Q&A with the directors of Rich Hill?)


{ Alt fashion mag publisher talked to The Riveter. And thus meets my yearly quota of fashion news. }

September 21, 2014 § Leave a comment

Aren’t Sunday mornings great? After recovering from a busy river cleanup and music festival in Boonville, I woke up to a crescent moon! In my window! And the wealth of the internet! At my fingertips! Thank God it’s 2014.

So while shaking off sleep, I checked in on websites I love and admire and stopped at The Riveter, a year-old publication founded by two Mizzou J-School women dedicated to women in longform journalism. They’re rad, the magazine’s rad, and you should probably go like them now before they’re famous.

Anyway, The Riveter’s most recent Q&A introduced me to Haley Mlotek, publisher of 10-year-old fashion mag WORN Fashion Journal and new editor of The Hairpin. She talked about the publisher-editor relationship, whether anyone at Worn gets paid, and what she thinks of Vogue.

“There’s a lack of urgency to a lot of their pieces,” she says in the interview and later, “As the publisher of WORN, I’m always thinking about why my magazine needs to exist, why people need to read it, because there’s a huge newsstand out there, and if you can’t tell your reader why they need to read the magazine you’ve made, then it’ll get lost.”

That’s great in itself, but the interview also links to Mlotek’s fascinating dissection of Vogue and fashion writing. It’s a worthy article for anyone interested in magazine identity and voice and—bonus—it forced me to Google “normcore.” Because hi, sorry, I live in mid-Missouri, and ironic fashion takes a while to settle in here.

WORN looks beautiful and meaningful and energetic, like a zine with more time on its hands. And I mean that as a high compliment, especially because I just watched this really good Kathleen Hanna documentary on Netflix last night.

Anyway, go click those linksss. But then come back and give me more links to read! I became the caretaker of an iPad yesterday and I hear I’m supposed to be doing something on it all the time. « Read the rest of this entry »

{ Magazines are still printing. On paper! They’re finding creativity out of limitations. And they’re finally featuring graphic novelists. }

September 18, 2014 § 1 Comment

As mentioned before, I was gone a lot this summer. Camping, traveling, phone off, laptop closed. Magazines stacked up like stalagmites underneath my coffee table, and a digital digest of boutique pubs pooled up on my Feedly. Finally, after drinking coffee in the afternoon and thus staying awake late late late, I binged on all the indie mag news from the past couple months til now. I wanted to share the highlights with you and flesh out the most stand-out ideas. I have to hand it to Stack magazines, magCulture and Magpile for doing the real work of documenting these ventures. I’m just rehashing stuff that made me say, “oooh.”

{ Slow Journalism, a.k.a. Longform, a.k.a. This is all I want out of life and print magazines }

beltwayThe Intentional Quarterly is “dedicated to building creative communities and showcasing emerging artists.” They rock a print magazine, a clean website, and even host events. I love events.

Here’s a sample of writing: “So, My Roommates are My Parents” is a funny, well-edited piece on privilege (by this founder of cool-looking project Be You Be Sure); there’s a phenomenal story/essay/f**king great piece of writing from MISSOURI, nay THE OZARKS (!) featuring, among other great observations, a racist conservationist neighbor named Bud; and the editor gives a passionate declaration of faith in the print medium that nearly made me cry tears of joy:

The Intentional is long-form because it is, because I had a magazine baby, and it was born that way. Because that is what was conceived when the world asked me how I wanted to interact with it.

Sooo, that’s inspiring. There’s also Delayed Gratification, “the world’s first slow journalism magazine” (the qualifier being a little ironic since they decry “today’s ultra-fast news cycle” that “rates being first above being right”). At any rate, their newest issue is out now, with art from Ai WeiWei on the cover.

And then, I really enjoyed magCulture’s “At Work With” interview with Weapons of Reason founder Danny Miller. When asked about the mag’s “rabble rousing name,” Miller said:

Honestly we’re not fighters or activists at all. The mag looks at some very challenging topics, but at the same time we’re not trying to be political, or even draw conclusions. We realised when researching our first cover topic – The Arctic – it was such a vast area that the best we could do was to identify the best questions to be asking. From there we could commission the right stories, and ultimately look to present the key facts that inform the debate to readers in a way that would allow them to connect the dots themselves.

Hey look, straight journalism with objective reporting. Walter Williams is shedding a tear in journalism heaven. I also like how Weapons of Reason is taking on a single, serious topic and exploring it through “past, present, and future” lenses, similar to what The Outpost does by looking at “What’s Happening, What’s Not Happening, and What Could Happen” in its magazine about the Arab world. Again, creativity from limitation. Again, awesome.

{ Creative Approaches }

The WoR interview also alluded to a limitation of eight issues. Is this a trend? Because Dirty Furniture talks of doing the same thing (one piece of furniture explored per issue…neat…weird, but neat). I can see advantages to that “finite printing” concept. Experiment, make people want it now because they can’t always get it later, achieve a specific goal and be done with it. If that’s your goal, that’s cool. Something to think about…

A few more: Stand & Deliver magazine uses core subjects (in this case, standup comedy) to spin off in other directions. Like, profile one man, reprint a children’s comic he made, publish pages from his notebooks, and write an overview of other comedians from his home country. Or, more generally, include researched articles along with photography and other cool stuff. It lets creativity flow from limitations, and that can be a very good thing.

And finally, The Guardian magazine redesign is running a weekly graphic novel series. Also, at the SEJ conference, we learned that OnEarth magazine’s next packaged publication will feature a graphic novel. I’m personally thrilled.

{ New Takes on Travel }

A genre all its own! But worthy of critique and a new way forward. First, Compass Cultura is a new digital magazine that publishes three quality pieces of travel writing for $2 each issue. Here’s what they have to say for themselves:

We don’t publish puff-pieces, round-ups or sponsored articles. We take pride in storytelling and readability.

Compass Cultura is for people who like to travel and discover. It’s for people who are sick and tired of the bubble-gum travel section of their local newspaper. It’s for people who are fed up with airy 500-word travel-and-leisure blurbs published by major media outlets.

Compass Cultura is your new alternative travel publication. Let us tell you some stories.


Steve Watson at Stack did a long interview with the magazine’s creative director. It shows a magazine reveling in digital and keeping alight the torch of quality longform storytelling. I also appreciate their business model that shirks short-term startup money in favor of sustainable funding, or “revenue-backed growth.”

And hey! Its second issue came out this week. That’s exciting. Once I get a minute I might just lay down $2 to see what it’s all about.

Finally, Unmapped offers “hidden stories from around the world, about ideas, events, places and people that have been left off the map.”

The paywall’s strict: two articles and you’re bumped out. The few articles I did read (thanks, multiple browsers) feel about as broad as the mission statement: unpolished first-person pieces, some narrative, others just descriptive. Often with good photography. A nice project, but lacking a strong identity. I think that’s hard to do when you’re featuring places from all over, but not impossible. Maybe they just need more limitations.

{ Streets Named After Muses }

September 11, 2014 § 1 Comment

For four mornings in New Orleans, my eyes opened to a sunrise over the Mississippi River. That’s always a good start. I was there for a gathering of environmental journalists, but it was also a fine place to gather my own thoughts and intentions.

Each day began with a long walk. Early on Saturday, sick of the French Quarter’s storefronts and smells, I set out in the opposite direction. Passing under a highway, beyond old churches and homeless shelters, I ended up in a part of the city where the streets are named after muses. That’s another good start.

There’s a great coffee shop there, in this supposedly seedy area that raised eyebrows when I mentioned it to locals. The woman who owns the place said she came to New Orleans to help after the BP oil spill. When I asked if she was still involved in environmental efforts, she shrugged and motioned around. Her place is in the coffee shop now. She’s building roots, giving back. Making me a mocha.

A sweet little dog at Church Alley Coffee in New Orleans.

A sweet little dog at Church Alley Coffee in New Orleans.

I met a few other inspiring business owners that weekend, not to mention the plethora of conference-going freelancers. The ones doing it right are intensely focused, wrapped up in the joy of creation.

And where am I? After a spring of discontent and summer of peaceful happiness, my personal life feels complete. I’m stable again. So I’m once again ready to create art. Or commit acts of journalism. Ideally both. I’m ready to rejoin those creators.

Here’s what else I got from the conference:

  • I met and spent time with some very cool Midwest ladies and gents. Of course, cool people come from everywhere, but there’s this sub-tribal element to bonding over the same landscape and same culture. There’s talk among us of recruiting more journalists from the area and getting together outside of the annual conference. If you know anything about me, you know how exciting this prospect is. And if you’re a Midwest/lower Midwest/Texas/Oklahoma/Arkansas environmental writer, send me a line and I’ll include you in our plans!
  • I also talked to people who run field reporting trips and others who work with youth, and it got me excited again about doing that myself. I’ve planned to design a print publication class for the Missouri Scholars Academy, so it makes perfect sense to narrow it into some sort of nature writing curriculum.
  • Overall, the encouragement was overwhelming. Whether it came from award-winning writers or people in about the same pond as me, I drew a lot of energy from their stories and advice. The takeaway: there’s no single way to do this. Trust yourself.

So that brings us to now, with gray skies and an autumn breeze seeping through my windows. I’m following leads and sending emails and trying to lay down roots in my own way.

Yesterday, back in Jefferson City, I worked out of Three Story Coffee, one of those shops with a conscience. They don’t even have WiFi, which seemed strange at first, but is growing on me. I ran into the president of the local Audubon chapter and eavesdropped on cops learning about espresso blends. It feels right to return to Mid-Missouri, where my muses of nature and culture inspire me every day. And that, my friend, is always a good start.

At Three Story Coffee in Jefferson City.

At Three Story Coffee in Jefferson City.

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