Celebrating This Thing We Do

Street-paper conference shares ideas for improvement and growth

Staff Reporter

Denver, Colo. – The North American Street Newspaper Association (NASNA) held its annual conference July 30-Aug. 2 at the University of Denver. Forty-two people from 18 different organizations attended.

The conference, hosted by the Denver VOICE, was both a celebration of the burgeoning street-paper movement and an opportunity for participants to share ideas for improving their editorial content, vendor programs and fundraising.

“Street newspapers across North America are changing the conversation around poverty and homelessness by building a bridge between the very poor and the wider public by helping people to understand the issues and the personal stories of those on the lowest rung of the economic ladder,” said Andy Freeze, executive director of NASNA. Freeze is the former education coordinator for the Greater Cincinnati Coalition for the Homeless.

The coalition, which publishes Streetvibes, sent four staff members and contributing writer Margo Pierce to the conference. Pierce, a 2009 Peter Jennings Fellow, was one of two presenters at a workshop on the theme, “The Challenges of Advocacy Journalism without Preaching to the Choir.” The workshop featured a spirited discussion on journalistic ethics and practice.

A highlight of the conference was the second annual North American Street Paper Awards. Streetvibes Editor Gregory Flannery received the Best Feature Story Award for “We Are Their Slaves,” published in 2008, which documented the exploitation of Latino workers in Greater Cincinnati.

“It is very gratifying to have this story recognized in this way because it goes to the very heart of what we do – we who work for street newspapers and care about people who are homeless, marginalized, disenfranchised and so often despised,” Flannery said.

The story included information about the maltreatment of workers at a meatpacking plant that processes pork for the Kroger Co. When the Denver VOICE reprinted the story earlier this year, its vendors were barred from selling the paper at King Soopers stores, a subsidiary of Kroger.

Other awards were:

· Best Interview – “Revolution,” by Israel Bayer of Street Roots, Portland, Ore.

· Best Series – “The Man Who Stood on the Bridge,” Real Change, Seattle, Wash.

· Best Vendor Essay – “Welcome Home – A Transitional Tale,” The Contributor, Nashville, Tenn.

· Best Cover Design – What’s Up Magazine, St. Louis, MO.

· Most Improved Newspaper – Street Sights, Providence, R.I.

NASNA, launched in 1997, now has 27 member organizations in 14 U.S. states and four Canadian provinces. NASNA members have a combined monthly circulation of over 287,000, according to Freeze. The organization is likely to continue growing. Among the participants at the conference was Amanda Faith Moore, who is about to begin publishing Toledo Streets.

“Street newspapers have for the most part avoided drops in circulation as other print media have seen,” Freeze said. “In fact, street newspapers are bucking the trends and are increasing circulation, increasing the frequency of publication and being recognized for their quality content.”