January 30, 2017 § Leave a comment
July 14, 2016 § Leave a comment
I went to St. Louis this week. Ostensibly, it was a 4-hour drive for a 20-minute interview. In application, it was such a departure from my regular world that those hours were but the walk on a hero’s journey. I dropped in at two bookstores where we’re trying to stock The New Territory. I’ve always loved perusing these places when I visit the city, and there’s a golden oddness to walking up to the familiar counters, saying I have a question, saying, “I publish this magazine,” and sliding it forward. The guys at both stores had already seen it on their review stack (I’d mailed copies several weeks ago), and one said he was a fan. A fan! This looked like a well-read man. He sounded completely earnest. I think I melted a little bit. I regret not sticking around to talk to him, asking him about himself. Ask him why he appreciated the magazine so much, sure, but also just connect more like, as a human. My star-struckedness kept me from chatting like I usually would. He’ll remain a mystery in the distance until I can go there again.
And then, exhibit 2: People I work with or already know. Kelly Moffitt, who also went to Mizzou, knew about the magazine and invited me to talk about it on St. Louis Public Radio’s St. Louis on the Air, which feels like a huge break and really thrilling opportunity. I’m so grateful to Kelly for reaching out. She got Hug #1. Then, I was joined in the interview by Kella Thornton, a writing professor in the St. Louis area who shared a Mizzou mentor with me a few years earlier. At the start of The New Territory, she graciously agreed to help edit stories and is working on a killer lyrical essay for Issue 02: In Defense. She’s been great to collaborate with on the phone, Google Docs, Twitter and Instagram, and it was so good to meet her in person! Hug #2. We got lunch at a really sweet bakery wonderland and talked for probably two hours. I could have stayed longer. There can never be enough creative, enthusiastic people in my life.
On a sidenote, I also stopped in Chesterfield to set up my next tattoo (!).
As I write this, I flick my screen to Twitter and Facebook, yearning for social interaction, and avoiding Gmail because it reminds me of all the things I have to do that aren’t related to the magazine. I could edit and email writers 100 hours a week and not get tired. I don’t have stamina for much else these days. It’s the people and this network we’re creating all across the Midwest that makes the project real and worth it to me. I’m so happy to connect, redistribute wealth where I can, and prove this region is strong with inspiring people.
June 21, 2016 § Leave a comment
Just a note to say why I’m committed to supporting a journalism community, now more than ever.
Reason #1: Launch-party-inspired warm fuzzies turned to hard cash reality when I got to pay the remainder of our printing bill from my personal funds. “Got to” is sincere; I can’t feed the project very much, but I’m grateful for circumstances that allow me to make these kind of sacrifices. Magazines create communities, and reading a physical copy is like holding hands with other readers. I will stand by this simile.
Reason #2: I got to spend an entire week with about 20 smart, compassionate, curious and unrelenting journalists on a trip with the Institute for Journalism and Natural Resources. They got us out in North Dakota, where I’d never been and most of my colleagues hadn’t either. That’s the whole point of this field-based reporting organization. We emerged with vivid stories and photos, and a stronger context for stories related to habitat conservation, fracking, agriculture and geology. I also came away with a love for all the great journalists out there. Best to check out our Instagram photos.
Reason #3: Earlier, during a week wrought with high-profile accusations that the media sucks when they are actually doing their job, I saw these three points of light:
First, on the 5th anniversary of the Joplin tornado, The Columbia Missourian posted this cover story from that day. My friend Justin designed the page. He had some really beautiful things to say about what it meant to him:
“I never went down to Joplin to see the aftermath of this one firsthand; the only tornado damage I covered in person was in high school in Nixa, but I still feel for everyone on the receiving end of storms like that.
And finally, even though I usually try to steer clear of the political threads on Facebook: In this year of people blaming “the media” as a monolithic evil responsible for so many of the country’s ills, let’s all try to remember that “the media” isn’t just the faces on TV talking about this candidate or that candidate for giant companies you might dislike; it’s also the countless other people, including in towns in Missouri, trying to help make sense of any number of the other crazy things going on in this world of ours. I hope that page helped someone who needed it.”
Then, Sarah Kendzior re-shared a clip from an opinion article I loved reading earlier this March. Titled, “Who won the Midwest? Not the people who live in it,” the piece was about Missouri’s unfortunate status as an irrelevant and predictable Red State. But what she retweeted, and what particularly struck me after thinking about Justin’s reflection, was this:
“The story of the Midwest remains largely untold. All candidates court the Midwest by bemoaning its loss of industry, but one of the main industries it lost is media.”
She goes on to talk about how unless there’s a crisis in Missouri or the Midwest, our everyday struggle gets ignored, leaving the region as a whole heartbroken. I feel that. That’s why I love Belt so much. That’s why I started The New Territory.
I have to admit, I really want the NT to run more journalism than it does, do better journalism. I think we’re getting better in subsequent issues and I’m trying to not be too hard on myself. I’m working to find outside funding so we don’t hit a plateau. The longform reporting and writing I’m asking for from these people takes a lot of time to find the right sources, do research to back it up, and then produce something beautiful. Visuals are another big investment. Part of why our cover price is $15 and not something like $5.95 is that most of the burden of paying for these stories goes to the reader. But, readers aren’t trained to do that, and that may be why we don’t sell as fast as I wish we were.
It’s hard to convince many people anywhere to fund good journalism, and especially hard when people perceive “media” and “journalism” as the bad guys promoting bad behavior in our culture.
Finally, Joy Mayer examined eight stories in a post, “What have journalists done for you lately?” I like that she doesn’t highlight the latest big investigative reports or cutting-edge infographics. Considered individually, these pieces of media may seem small or insignificant, but Mayer makes a case for each one being valuable in her life and the spirit of each story having universal significance. But how can we support creators?
“And it all takes an investment on the part of an organization or an individual. None of it comes free.
If journalists want people to value their work, they need to work on telling its story.”
Read her blog for prompts on how to start communicating media’s value. It’s something I’ll certainly take to heart and will try to do more.
So, I still have some boxes sitting in my apartment of a magazine about finding strength. I even have a web page set up where you can buy it. And if you buy it, you support future journalism from the region. You help yourself and the community make sense of the Lower Midwest. And, you have something pretty to brag about.
If you already subscribe, then consider some handmade leather goods or locally roasted coffee. It’s a double-whammy of supporting local artisans and kicking another percentage of proceeds to NT. There’s the marketing speech.
March 1, 2016 § Leave a comment
Dan Holtmeyer is a kind man, a smart journalist, and talented photographer. These shots from a hike in the Buffalo National River area have so much texture! Wood smoothed by the hands of hikers, wind and water. Landscapes shaggy with bare branches and green cedars. I think my own hike in Arkansas is in order…
Buffalo National River’s bluffs, the 500-foot walls of sandstone and limestone that run along much of the river’s length, seem to shepherd the meandering turquoise water. Most of the time, hikers and kayakers can see the bluffs only from above or on the water. But there’s one trail that turns right onto a bluff’s face: the Goat Trail.
Officially this trail got its name from the feral goats that have been spotted nearby, but it also might have something to do with the mountain goat-like steadiness, not to mention comfort with heights, a hiker needs to reach the bluff at its end. Outdoors writer Flip Putthoff recently promised a spectacular view there and said winter was the best time to see it, so I took a shot at it Sunday for my first-ever trip to the Buffalo.
If you’re not on the water, getting to the bluffs means going down bluffs…
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October 27, 2015 § Leave a comment
On our roadtrip this summer, Katie asked me to make a list of podcasts for her. But she never gave me a deadline, and my tastes kept changing, annnd now it’s almost November. As a former data entry assistant, girrrrl, I know podcasts. There’s the Podcast as Educator, Podcast as Time-Waster, Podcast as Conversation with Person Who Could Be Your Best Friend.
My podcast docket changes based on life circumstances. Data entry is different from driving or cleaning house (for instance, I used to binge listen to Marc Maron interviews but not that I don’t have much time, I choose shorter and finer podcasts). But hey Katie, here. Here’s your list. For now. You can search on the iTunes store for each one.
Longform: Always a favorite, each episode is an hour-long interview with a longform journalist. I learn about writing, finding story ideas, struggles the writers have that I can relate to. Sometimes they even talk to editors, which is worth its own post on this magazine blog. But lately I haven’t been listening to Longform because it makes me want to jump out the door and write when instead I should be working on my magazine.
On Leadership: The Washington Post did this podcast with interviews from creative and business leaders. As a baby publisher, I love learning from people who have “made it” (and that they weren’t all instantly successful).
Press Publish: Nieman Labs revived this podcast that talks about innovative technology and journalism. Recent interviews include BuzzFeed’s audio director on targeting diverse audiences and TheAtlantic.com’s editor about bringing blogging back to the website.
Another Round: I usually dismiss “talk” podcasts as obnoxious chatter (most notably one I tried of a Southern couple reviewing wine), but Heben and Tracy are vibrant and interesting and, importantly, not in the middle-age-white-guy demographic that tends to control most podcasts. So I learn about their worlds, and it makes my world richer. So I like it. You would like it.
99% Invisible: You’ll like this one. It’s all well-produced stories everyday cultural phenomena, like office chairs or horror movie music.
This American Life: Classic. Unlike some more experimental podcasts, this delivers a predictable format that mixes serious journalism with entertaining weirdness. No one does storytelling better.
Death, Sex & Money: Yay, another one-on-one interview format. The title determines the subjects, which are inherently fascinating.
Stardate: What’s happening in the night sky!
Tara Brach: My friend Harum recommended this while we were on our trip, and I’m so grateful she did. The author of Radical Acceptance and True Refuge, Tara Brach gives weekly talks on emotional healing and spiritual awakening using Buddhist mindfulness and science to teach new ways of thinking. I’ve learned new vocabulary for dealing with pervasive struggles we all endure and continue to grow as I listen and put the concepts into practice.
Honorary Mentions: Snap Judgment, WTF with Marc Maron, Serial (come back!), The Story Collider, 99u, Radiolab (but mostly because my homegirl Abigail Keel is working there right now) « Read the rest of this entry »
June 21, 2015 § Leave a comment
As I write this, there are 42 hours left in Missouri River Relief’s IndieGoGo campaign. I helped them start it. We’ve raised more than $10,000—enough to replace one van that’s in the worst shape—and for that I’m grateful. I have a lot to reflect on how we could have made it better, raised that extra $20,000. Put another volunteer in charge while one is teaching at a summer camp, for starters. Cough, cough. That would be me.
For now, I’ll say, there’s still time to raise $20,000. If the four readers of this blog donated just $5,000, we’d make it there in no time! You can visit the campaign page for more details, but here’s the situation in brief:
Our vehicles have more than 1.5 million miles on them. We’d already raised about $55,000 from donors to replace the first couple of trucks, but they’re honestly all in bad shape. We turned to our supporters for help. And that’s where you can come in.
If you read this blog for a while, you know the kind of impact this organization has had on my life. They help elevate my purpose, so I’m not just picking up trash by myself, but I’m helping facilitate education and service opportunities for others. They make a meaningful difference in the trash load on the river. And most importantly, the staff and crew have become like family: they’re my camping friends, my source of soul-baring talk, my people who will drive down to Jeff City for all kinds of ridiculous parties. I care about them dearly, and I want them safe on the road.
February 10, 2014 § 2 Comments
Missouri River Relief’s big fundraiser, the Wild & Scenic Film Festival, was today in Columbia. Some films I loved (Dying Green, the one about Gregg Treinish); some I didn’t (Backyard). Really I went for the good company, which was in no short supply.
I also got to donate some kickass granola, dubbed “Gravel Bar Granola” for the riverful occasion (or maybe for all time, when I can quit the lucrative field of freelance writing to start a breakfast snack company). In case you’re wondering: « Read the rest of this entry »