Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Charlotte's coolest new magazine

"Speak Up" has burst onto the Charlotte media scene with handsome graphics printed on heavy paper, an easy-to-read layout, appealing articles -- about religion, music, little-known local resources, immigration -- and a scan code for more online content. Its goal, says the contents page, is to create jobs and give hope. And it's about...the needy.

I've seen folks hand out weekly newspapers on street corners in New York and Toronto, earning money for themselves by selling similar (and flimsier) publications. This is the first time I've seen a magazine-quality publication tackle similar issues. I read its 32 pages literally from cover to cover.

I ran across it in the 7th Street Public Market while waiting for a drink at Not Just Coffee. The distribution box asked for a $3 donation, which would go to the woman responsible for it. (She bought copies for $1 and sells them for $3, or whatever you care to give above that.)

The cover shot, a picture of a woman climbing avidly down into a dumpster, caught my eye. In that article, "Dumpster Diving for Awareness (and dinner)," writer Kaitlyn Tokay explained why she has spent the last year -- by choice -- gathering and eating the majority of her food from among the things stores throw away. I was hooked.

The topic made me wonder if the stories would be downbeat, sanctimonious or asking for donations. They weren't. I learned about artist David Alan Goldberg and musician Denison Witmer, Buskapalooza organizer April Denee, a soccer World Cup for homeless players and urban pioneers who started the Free Store in Charlotte with the motto "Give what you want, take what you need."

All the articles were connected to life on the street or among the poor in some matter-of-fact way, but they were diverse and never maudlin. (Go to to see what I'm talking about.) They reminded me that, even in a crowded and diverse media market like this one, there's always room for a smart niche publication.

And I am going to find out what's up with that Free Store when the smoke from the DNC clears....


Lana Shaw said...

Thank you for sharing your thoughts on Speak Up magazine, it is very encouraging to hear your good review. We have been at this for some time now. On the verge of publishing the next issue, which we hope will be an even better product for our vendors to sell.

Lea said...

I love Speak Up, so much so that I shared my copy with friend in California as soon as I read it two or three times through. I couldn't just keep it to myself! Like you, I felt it presented a voice and vision that needed to be shared. Can't wait for the second issue!!!

Samantha Reed said...

Thank you for sharing your great commentary on Speak Up magazine. It truly is top notch and well done. Each article has captured my attention and moved me to want to be more active in our local community here in Charlotte.

Great article! Thanks again.