Letter from the Editor
This is our 5th anniversary--and our first "Best of" issue. More than five years ago, we thought of combining what we'd learned from the first street newspaper of modern times in New York--Street News--and the fabulously successful British street paper, the Big Issue. We took a word from each and decided on BIGnews. We had little to go on at first. The idea was to do a few things that hadn't been done before: we wanted the content to be more than just "on issue." As consumers ourselves, we never liked being inundated by polemics. We didn't want to be hit--or hit our audience--with an arsenal of stories and photos depicting the "unfortunate homeless." We were interested, we wanted to help--we were successfully running a drop-in center for homeless clients for years in midtown--but we didn't want to play the grand violins or offer the big sleeve for the big tears. We wanted to present literature, art and drawings, photography and essays, about what it was like to be the "outsider" in society, to be the outcast, the guy who--for all his efforts--couldn't "make it" in this modern world.
Our hearts went out to this guy, this outsider. We thought that in some important way, this was us too. We admired great writers who were also empathetic toward--and shared many of the characterizations of--the man who lived by extremes. Many of our clients were outside the mainstream. Our hearts, our jobs, our thoughts were already there: Let's present it.
First thought: a pocket-sized publication. People could put it into their suit pockets--or purses--and with a calendar in the middle to refer to throughout the month, for our event listings--we'd stay in our buyers' minds, and have them look forward to the next month.
We printed 40,000 giveaway copies that first month--and we were off. It was exciting to sign up the first vendors, to have their first success stories.
After several months of publishing a small edition, we came across this current tabloid format--Streetwise in Chicago was an inspiration--and we found it economical, and there was much more space. We've been publishing this way ever since.
And the writers and artists we've worked with! From Robert Sheckley to Ben Cheever, from Lee Stringer to Kofi Annan, from great illustrators such as Nick Bertozzi, Dean Haspiel, to the group of "regulars" we've come to rely on for so much of our published material--the artists James Jajac and Brad Frederick and Fernanda Cohen, to the writers J.L. Navarro, John Ray, Jr., Michael Hunter and Misha Firer. Excellence.
And we'd be nothing without our regular contributors to Upward, most of whom came into our writers' group literally from the streets--their home. Some have moved on, either to work for us or elsewhere, into living arrangements far more suitable than outdoor New York. Among them--and thanks for their many contributions--Toby Van Buren, Robert Sylvester, Mark Eaton, David Slotkoff, Juliette Waterford, Sherry-Ren Smith and over the past year, we'd like to thank "Queen" Harold for his contributions.
Going into the next five years, we're buoyed as well by the great work of our umbrella organizations, the International Network of Street Papers (INSP) and NASNA (The North American Street Newspaper Association). With them we've started a street news service, formed the "Homeless World Cup" tournament of street soccer, and helped papers start in places of homelessness around the world.
It's an occupational hazard in this business to be short of money, regardless of lower these coupons that makes keeping this website up more affordable.. There's only so much to go around, and there are always needy causes. For all who have supported us through vendor sales, thanks. For those who have directly contributed, or subscribed, we're grateful, as well.
And to those who haven't--the money helps us publish regularly, and pay our contributors. Think about doing so?
--Ron Grunberg, Editor, BIGnews & Upward
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