CLIFF’S EDGE: Real Change is a first-rate example of a ‘street paper’


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The first item to catch my eye in this particular newspaper was a column written by the newspaper’s founding director.

He is writing from a conference of “street paper” representatives from around the world in Manchester, England.

He begins his column with a single word: “Charlottesville.”

From that point he writes boldly and critically about the history of racism in America, all this in response to questions from others at the conference wanting to know “what’s going on in America.”

He writes from a decidedly liberal position on the political spectrum and is not at all gentle with the present administration. If you’re inclined to consider any idea that lies outside the conservative doctrine as being “fake news” or worse, you wouldn’t be happy with this man’s point of view.

I didn’t agree with everything he said, but I found that what he had to say expanded my perspective on the racial struggles with which we’re continuing to deal.

I particularly appreciated a timely quote he borrowed from William Faulkner:

“The past is never dead. It’s not even past.”

This newspaper, an August issue of “Real Change” is a first-rate example of a “street paper.” You likely have seen it being sold in public areas along many King County streets, including those all across B-Town Blog territory.

I had held on to this issue because, in addition to that column, there were several other articles in it I found of interest.

That is often the case.

It publishes with a mission, and that mission is clearly stated on its Page 2:

“Real Change exists to provide opportunity and a voice for low-income and homeless people while taking action for economic, social and racial justice.”

So, there you have it, the focus of its content and the point of view from which it will be delivered.

I most often consider its topics to be of importance. I encounter them in my reading on a regular basis across a wide range of publications.

What I find in “Real Change” that’s different is the voice with which they’re delivered. It sounds like it originates with people who have lived the existence being considered, not just from those who have scrutinized it in the abstract.

For example, this past week’s issue of “Real Change” celebrated “World Toilet Day,” leading off with a drawing on the cover of Planet Earth sitting on …. yes…a toilet. Inside was about four pages of material exploring this potentially mundane, yet not-to-be-taken-for-granted, subject.

As framed for this publication, it takes on urgent importance in a community where hundreds of people, adults and children, men and women, may be unsure where and how they’re going to answer that next call of nature.

That quickly shifts any discussion of homelessness beyond the statistics and theories often associated with debates far removed from where homelessness is being experienced, even with the frequency with which we’re witnessing them in this part of the country.

Peeled back to day-by-day realities where even the frequent occurrences of routine life can be a source of stress, frustration and hopelessness, they take on a human dimension that needs a much different type of discussion.

“Real Change” helps provide the vocabulary for that discussion, and not just in print. It also provides a speaker’s bureau that carries these issues into the communities in a face-to-face format.

One such presentation focusing on homelessness is scheduled for the Burien Library at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 29. I plan to be there. I hope some of you will be also.

Cliff Rowe is a retired journalist and journalism professor. (He practiced both in a time before journalists and what they produced were considered “enemies of the people.”) He and his family have lived in the Shorewood area of White Center (then Burien) since 1969 when they returned to the Northwest after seven years in the Chicago area. There, following graduate school, he wrote and edited with the Chicago Sun-Times and with Paddock Publications in the Chicago suburbs. On moving here, he was with The Seattle Times for 11 years before turning to teaching journalism at Pacific Lutheran University for 35 years, retiring in 2015.

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