Ever wonder how Real Change newspapers are put together? There's an editorial department, run by Editor Amy Roe, it includes an assistant editor, a reporter and a graphic artist. There's the occasional intern. Volunteer writers accept assignments. In addition to all that there's the Editorial Committee, or the "ec." What's that about?
I'll tell what I can about the history of this EC thing, and I'll explain what it does.
I missed the very beginning of the ec by a month or two, so I'm a little unclear about the start-up. However, the idea was to provide grassroots input to the paper's content. At the very beginning, in the fall of 1994, there was no editor, no paid reporter, and no graphic artist, unless by all those positions you meant Timothy Harris, our founding director and only employee at the time.
So the ec was assembled by invitation. As the paper was going to focus on homelessness, calls went out to homeless services and their clients. When I joined the ec in its second or third month, there were maybe eight members. The paper came out monthly, and the ec met right after each issue. It reviewed the latest edition and considered where to take upcoming issues.
My own involvement in the ec happened because the committee had no private room to meet back then. So I was sitting around during one of their meetings and butted in. Instead of telling me to go away, they made the mistake of inviting me to join them.
That first meeting was quite a ride. A shouting match broke out. Two members walked out in the middle of the meeting. A third resigned afterward. The argument, as best as I can recall, was about who belonged more to an ethnic group than the others. Good times.
I have to mention a few long-time members of the EC that became involved around then. One was Michele "Give 'em hel' with one 'L'!" Marchand, who was there at the start. Michele was without a doubt the most productive member the ec has ever had, until her work with share/wheel became too demanding. My easy admission to the EC led me to tell a friend, poet Stan Burriss, after he expressed interest in joining, to just try and crash it. He did, and for 10 years we enjoyed his lectures on peace and warmth, hands and circles.
About a year after I joined, a certain Anitra Freeman showed up with a poem we liked, so we published it and tricked her into also joining the ec, where she remains.
After the rocky beginning the ec has rarely had walk-outs, and never again two at one meeting. We now ask to get to know new applicants before making them official members. However, in the entire history of the ec only two people have been asked to leave. One, because we were spending too long explaining basic concepts, like "poor means you don't have enough money." The other, for not getting along. So it's hardly a closed club.
At first, meetings were lead by Timothy Harris. Later, when Real Change could afford to hire an editor, the facilitation was passed on to him or to an intern, for a while. During this period ec members were often asked to share in the writing. Anitra had set up a workshop she called StreetWrites, so vendors and other homeless people could enjoy writing. We put the workshop to good use by sending ec members who wanted help with their assignments.
Since then the goals of the ec have shifted. As more paid staff can now write stories or assign them to volunteers, the ec has been called upon to focus on coming up with ideas for stories.
As the ec changed, it became possible to seek more participation from Real Change vendors. The makeup of the committee varies from month to month, but the current group is typical. We have 14 members now, 10 of whom are vendors. All of us have been homeless in the past and about one-third of us are currently homeless.
A typical meeting might be spent talking about closing shelters, ideas for an issue centered around food, a recent death on the streets and who might know about it, or changes witnessed in local services. We'll discuss what we have learned about these, and what we'd like a writer to find out and report on in the paper.
Besides brainstorming, the ec also spends a little time in each meeting looking through the most recent paper for errors that might need correcting, or stories that suggest follow-up.
Then, every month or so, we go over unsolicited submissions of poetry and other writings. These are confidential sessions. A volunteer has previously blanked out the author's names on the submissions, so that we can vote to accept or reject blindly. Our acceptance is provisional -- the editor makes the final decision.
Meetings are currently 2:30 to 4 p.m. Thursdays in the Real Change conference room, 219 First Ave. S, Suite 220. Guests and applicants are welcome the last Thursday of every month. Real Change vendors have preference and may apply at any meeting.