Street Newspaper Ranks Growing FWD

Tom Boland (wgcp@earthlink.net)
Thu, 5 Nov 1998 08:08:37 -0400


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FWD  Tuesday November 3, 1998 1:47 pm Eastern Time


STREET NEWSWPAPERS MOVING UP

By NIKI KAPSAMBELIS
Associated Press Writer


PITTSBURGH (AP) -- Jack Nicholson's devilish grin fills the full-color
cover of the Los Angeles edition of The Big Issue, reminding readers that
it is ``coming up from the streets'' and, in smaller print, that 60 cents
of the $1 cover price goes to the homeless person who sells it.

On the back cover is an ad for a hip brand of cosmetics. Inside, ads for
Levi's and Doc Martens help to finance pages devoted to celebrity
interviews and articles with titles like ``L.A. on ten bucks a day'' and,
yes, poetry and short stories written by homeless people.

>From Los Angeles to New York, street newspapers -- those pulpy tabloids
that double as umbrellas in the rain and litter city streets -- are moving
up.

There are homeless reporters and editors, a publishers' association with
annual meetings, a homeless news service via the Internet.

``I've dined with the governor, a couple of senators. Not bad for a
homeless guy,'' says David Ward. Through the homeless service agency that
produces Street Beat, Ward helped with the late-October launch of a
magazine, StreetVoice.

About 50 street newspapers are published in the United States. The
granddaddy of the modern era is Street News, which started in New York in
1989 and inspired knockoffs such as Street Sheet in San Francisco and Spare
Change in Boston.

``We're getting better organized, and the movement is growing,'' says Tim
Harris, chairman of the North American Street Newspaper Association, and
founder of Real Change, a homeless newspaper in Seattle. ``People really
support the idea of poor people doing things to help themselves.''

In Pittsburgh, Street Beat borrows space in a downtown building where there
are apartments and service agencies for the homeless. It claims a
circulation of about 1,000, but a readership that includes poet Maya
Angelou and author Norman Mailer.

Street Beat's modest success prompted StreetVoice, with its national news
and feature articles, including those on child-rearing and health issues
affecting the homeless.

Borrowing a page from the much bigger and glossier The Big Issue, launched
in London in 1991, it will give 75 cents of its $1 cover price to homeless
vendors. Street Beat, sold by subscription, gives a stipend of $3 per item
to the homeless who contribute articles.

Street newspapers claim two camps. Most are by, for and about the homeless
and, as a result, are much rougher around the edges. Deadlines are not
exact. Employees, some paid, some not, come and go.

On its inside cover, Street Beat -- a 50-page, black-and-white booklet
printed on newsprint -- reminds contributors that they must use their real
names if they want to be paid.

``Checks, regrettably, cannot be made out to `Tarzan,' `BeastMaster' or
`Mary Magdelene,''' it notes.

But the new breed, best represented by The Big Issue, is glossy and full of
general-interest articles. Homeless people sell and profit from The Big
Issue but provide only token editorial input. Its weekly circulation in
England is 400,000, compared with four-digit figures for some U.S.
papers.The Los Angeles edition was launched in April with much fanfare.

Critics worry that such success is quietly eroding the very reason such
papers were born: to serve as a voice for the disenfranchised.

``They think that the larger papers don't value the input of homeless
people as much as they should,'' Harris says. ``I don't think it needs to
be as black and white. I think you can produce a readable paper that is a
quality product.''

His own project, Real Change in Seattle, has an annual budget of about
$125,000 and includes a writers' support group and a speakers' bureau.
``That's all very real and very positive,'' Harris says.

As he sees it, the question is whether to produce a general-interest
publication that makes money for the homeless or one that is by and for the
homeless, a forum for their self-expression.

Proponents of the latter, Harris says, ``see the process as being as
important as the product, and they see the process of empowerment as being
important.''

Workers for Hard Times, a street paper in Los Angeles, complained that The
Big Issue would put them out of business. Art Kunkin, managing publisher of
The Big Issue, agreed to a meeting with Hard Times workers, mediated by
Harris. The result was an agreement of co-existence.

``It's complicated and it's messy, and there's truth on both sides,''
Harris says.

Kunkin, who describes himself as journalist concerned with social change,
insists The Big Issue does not pretend to be ``a voice for the homeless.''

Rather, he says, it is designed to be sold by the homeless to middle-class
youth.

Efforts to reach a formerly homeless editor for Hard Times failed; her
telephone had been disconnected.

Street Beat editor-in-chief Sharon Thorp has been homeless five times in
her 48 years -- most recently four years ago.

``I had to make the decision whether I wanted to live or die,'' she says.
``At the time, I didn't really decide what it was I would live for.''

Today, she knows. She helps others who are destitute or uncertain of
themselves.

Though she calls suffering ``vastly overrated as a learning tool,'' she
concedes, ``I'm a role model.''

END FORWARD
___________
** NOTICE: In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is
distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in
receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. **

HOMELESS PEOPLE'S NETWORK  <http://aspin.asu.edu/hpn/>  Home Page
ARCHIVES  <http://aspin.asu.edu/hpn/archives.html>  read posts to HPN
TO JOIN  <http://aspin.asu.edu/hpn/join.html> or email Tom <wgcp@earthlink.net>
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3,000+ posts by or via homeless & ex-homeless people

HOMELESS PEOPLE'S NETWORK <<http://aspin.asu.edu/hpn/>

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FWD  Tuesday November 3, 1998 1:47 pm Eastern Time



<paraindent><param>right,left</param>STREET NEWSWPAPERS MOVING UP


By NIKI KAPSAMBELIS 

Associated Press Writer 

</paraindent>


PITTSBURGH (AP) -- Jack Nicholson's devilish grin fills the full-color
cover of the Los Angeles edition of The Big Issue, reminding readers
that it is ``coming up from the streets'' and, in smaller print, that
60 cents of the $1 cover price goes to the homeless person who sells
it. 


On the back cover is an ad for a hip brand of cosmetics. Inside, ads
for Levi's and Doc Martens help to finance pages devoted to celebrity
interviews and articles with titles like ``L.A. on ten bucks a day''
and, yes, poetry and short stories written by homeless people. 


>From Los Angeles to New York, street newspapers -- those pulpy tabloids
that double as umbrellas in the rain and litter city streets -- are
moving up. 


There are homeless reporters and editors, a publishers' association
with annual meetings, a homeless news service via the Internet. 


``I've dined with the governor, a couple of senators. Not bad for a
homeless guy,'' says David Ward. Through the homeless service agency
that produces Street Beat, Ward helped with the late-October launch of
a magazine, StreetVoice. 


About 50 street newspapers are published in the United States. The
granddaddy of the modern era is Street News, which started in New York
in 1989 and inspired knockoffs such as Street Sheet in San Francisco
and Spare Change in Boston. 


``We're getting better organized, and the movement is growing,'' says
Tim Harris, chairman of the North American Street Newspaper
Association, and founder of Real Change, a homeless newspaper in
Seattle. ``People really support the idea of poor people doing things
to help themselves.'' 


In Pittsburgh, Street Beat borrows space in a downtown building where
there are apartments and service agencies for the homeless. It claims a
circulation of about 1,000, but a readership that includes poet Maya
Angelou and author Norman Mailer. 


Street Beat's modest success prompted StreetVoice, with its national
news and feature articles, including those on child-rearing and health
issues affecting the homeless. 


Borrowing a page from the much bigger and glossier The Big Issue,
launched in London in 1991, it will give 75 cents of its $1 cover price
to homeless vendors. Street Beat, sold by subscription, gives a stipend
of $3 per item to the homeless who contribute articles. 


Street newspapers claim two camps. Most are by, for and about the
homeless and, as a result, are much rougher around the edges. Deadlines
are not exact. Employees, some paid, some not, come and go. 


On its inside cover, Street Beat -- a 50-page, black-and-white booklet
printed on newsprint -- reminds contributors that they must use their
real names if they want to be paid. 


``Checks, regrettably, cannot be made out to `Tarzan,' `BeastMaster' or
`Mary Magdelene,''' it notes. 


But the new breed, best represented by The Big Issue, is glossy and
full of general-interest articles. Homeless people sell and profit from
The Big Issue but provide only token editorial input. Its weekly
circulation in England is 400,000, compared with four-digit figures for
some U.S. papers.The Los Angeles edition was launched in April with
much fanfare. 


Critics worry that such success is quietly eroding the very reason such
papers were born: to serve as a voice for the disenfranchised. 


``They think that the larger papers don't value the input of homeless
people as much as they should,'' Harris says. ``I don't think it needs
to be as black and white. I think you can produce a readable paper that
is a quality product.'' 


His own project, Real Change in Seattle, has an annual budget of about
$125,000 and includes a writers' support group and a speakers' bureau.
``That's all very real and very positive,'' Harris says. 


As he sees it, the question is whether to produce a general-interest
publication that makes money for the homeless or one that is by and for
the homeless, a forum for their self-expression. 


Proponents of the latter, Harris says, ``see the process as being as
important as the product, and they see the process of empowerment as
being important.'' 


Workers for Hard Times, a street paper in Los Angeles, complained that
The Big Issue would put them out of business. Art Kunkin, managing
publisher of The Big Issue, agreed to a meeting with Hard Times
workers, mediated by Harris. The result was an agreement of
co-existence. 


``It's complicated and it's messy, and there's truth on both sides,''
Harris says. 


Kunkin, who describes himself as journalist concerned with social
change, insists The Big Issue does not pretend to be ``a voice for the
homeless.'' 


Rather, he says, it is designed to be sold by the homeless to
middle-class youth. 


Efforts to reach a formerly homeless editor for Hard Times failed; her
telephone had been disconnected. 


Street Beat editor-in-chief Sharon Thorp has been homeless five times
in her 48 years -- most recently four years ago. 


``I had to make the decision whether I wanted to live or die,'' she
says. ``At the time, I didn't really decide what it was I would live
for.'' 


Today, she knows. She helps others who are destitute or uncertain of
themselves. 


Though she calls suffering ``vastly overrated as a learning tool,'' she
concedes, ``I'm a role model.''


END FORWARD

___________

** NOTICE: In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. **


HOMELESS PEOPLE'S NETWORK  <<http://aspin.asu.edu/hpn/>  Home Page

ARCHIVES  <<http://aspin.asu.edu/hpn/archives.html>  read posts to HPN

TO JOIN  <<http://aspin.asu.edu/hpn/join.html> or email Tom <<wgcp@earthlink.net>

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