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On turning one / by Liz Pelly and Faye Orlove

A year ago we launched The Media. I remember getting off work a little before midnight and realizing I had just enough time to bike over to Liz’s house so we could press “upload” together. We were drinking hard cider and taking pictures of each other for future history books, all while whispering so as to not wake up Noah and Emily. A few minutes after midnight, we uploaded the site to our server like Matt showed us. We looked at each other and laughed, 50% due to exhaustion and 50% due to OMG WUT DID WE JUST DO. Within a few hours, we’d acquired about a thousand followers on Twitter and a couple hundred dollars in donations. I was out pedicabbing the next morning when I learned that the site had so many visitors it shut down. I must have told every one of my rides that day about it. It felt so momentous I included that bandwidth blackout as part of my tour of the Freedom Trail.


I think Liz and I have told the story a million times, of getting kinda drunk at Veggie Planet and being like “OMG, dude, what if we called it ‘The Media.’” We laughed about the idea, which is a pretty good indication of our business strategy. If an idea made us laugh, we figured we were on to something good. Or maybe we were just too drunk. Hard to say. #BIZNESS #HOWTOSUCCEED

We spent the next whatever months spending virtually every moment together, coming up with story ideas, tweeting like cool 20-somethings with misplaced college degrees, establishing an ever-changing and somewhat-functioning workflow.

In August, we both moved. Liz went to New York and I headed to Los Angeles by way of D.C. I felt homesick, missed my friends, my bedroom, the places I knew I’d publicly peed. Everything felt weird and uncontrollable, like I had no roots to keep me tied down. It felt a lot like floating and I hated it. Like I’d keep ascending and ascending until I faded from view completely. I felt forgotten about. I felt like shit.

About a week after my move I went to see the Julie Ruin play at the Black Cat. I went with a friend but mostly felt bummed because I wasn’t used to “not being on a guest list” and what I think is called “paying for drinks.” Within minutes of beginning my usual stint of standing awkwardly in a corner, a cool dude in a Swearin’ tshirt asked me if I was Faye, if I worked on The Media. I said yes and we ended up talking for a while. I snuck off to the bathroom and called Liz. I told her someone outside of Boston cared about us. That maybe this “Media” thing was a little bigger than we knew. Cool Dude ended up giving me a ride across town to a Priests show I wouldn’t have been able to make it to otherwise. I can’t quite explain the sensation of being recognized in a place where I’d felt completely invisible. I felt a little like Courtney Love and lot less alone. This stranger pulled me out of my selfish self-pity and helped me realize that through The Media, my roots are not in a physical space, but they are radical and they are abstract.

After a month in D.C., I drove west to California with Rachel. We bought a car, piled it with as many CD’s as we could fit, and waved goodbye to my mom from her driveway as the windshield wipers smeared foggy water back and forth. My throat was really tight and my eyes got all glossy. I didn’t know what I was doing, I still don’t. All I knew is that I was leaving. It felt like I was always leaving. Leaving is really hard to do.

On our road-trip through the bible-belt we had friends to stay with in every city along the way. In Nashville, Olivia took us out for late night coffee at Waffle House. In New Orleans, Kallie offered us a pull out couch and a ride to the Coathangers show downtown. In Austin, Wendy rode bikes with us to get burritos and Mexican Coke. The road-trip itself was long and tiresome. Rachel and I are both Virgos, so our comfort doesn’t lie on the open road. But as we crossed three time zones, I felt so happy that I had friends willing to open their homes to me. Not even visiting the Lisa Frank factory was as fulfilling as realizing that Boston has never been my only home, it’s just the first place that felt like one.

Throughout the past year, the only thing that has remained constant is my fervent love for Miley Cyrus, and that every other week, we post The Media. I do not have a stable bedroom, a stable best friend, a stable job, or even a stable favorite song on Dookie (SASSAFRAS ROOTS OR BASKET CASE??!!! I’LL NEVER KNOW!!) The point being that The Media has been my only solace in a tough year of chaotic change, it has been the only thing (besides my mama) that I can depend on. I’ve made friends by meeting contributors, through booking benefit shows, and creating weekly illustrations that people seem to dig. While everything around us changed, while Liz was touring Europe and I was traversing the U.S., we knew that Fridays were for the Media. That was the same.

My move across the country (and the stifling anxiety that accompanied it) has made me realize that my sense of comfort is as nomadic as I am. That a home should not keep you contained, but make you feel safe enough to roam free. Boston will always be my first love, but I no longer feel stuck there. The Media has become my home, it is constant, (often the only thing constant), and through it, I’ve realized that I don’t want to be like trees. I don’t want to die when I’m uprooted. There is a special lightness that comes with realizing a house doesn’t make a home, a lightness that comes with knowing that even though leaving is hard, feeling too scared to leave would be unbearable.

So thank you for a year of love and support. I can honestly and deeply say, I’d be homeless without you.

Love Money Party,

I spent a long time totally terrified of publishing zines. I didn’t really figure out what zines were until halfway through journalism school, and the whole process just seemed intimidating. Could I write coherently without an editor? Would anyone even care what I had to say? How would I print the things?

J-school puts ideas in your head about what traditional models of “success” as a journalist looks like, and it doesn’t look like running an ad-free alt-weekly-inspired feminist punk news zine with your best friends.

It can be scary to say “fvck that,” but here we are. Three years out of journalism school and I can count on one hand the number of “real publications” (lol) in this world that I actually like even a little bit. When you’re facing that kind of bleak, toxic, and totally boring media landscape, what choice do you have but continuing working to create something better?

To be fair, we never meant for The Media to be a “zine.” And I’d still argue that we’re trying hard to break down some barrier between the DIY zine-making bubble (because let’s be real, it can be a cultural bubble!) and taking a more generalist approach to our writing and reporting.

And yet, there have definitely been times when this site has felt like a zine, specifically in the way we’ve tended to publish a lot of first-person narrative-driven pieces versus reported pieces. The sort of folks I used to interview for the Phoenix are now the ones with bylines on the media: artists, activists, musicians.

It’s something I’m coming to love the most about The Media: how this approach, though simple, is also a way of subverting the over-emphasis of objectivity in traditional journalism. I’ve spent a lot of time over the past year unlearning and relearning and rewiring my conceptions of what I think goes into interesting journalism.

We all have stories within us, and no one can tell them better than we can. A lot of people want to tell their stories. Sometimes all you need to do is ask.

When we launched last year, in my initial feature explaining The Media, I promised that we’d be “making this entire thing up as we went along,” and that directionless sense of figuring-it-out would serve the “spirit of alt weeklies.” The Media has morphed in many ways since our post-Phoenix launch as a Boston-centric weekly. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about what it means for this site to not exist specifically within Boston anymore. What community does this site now serve? What conversations need to be happening in those communities?

If one thing has stayed the same, we’ve certainly stayed true to that one ideal: embracing the feeling of not having everything figured out, how that can be an important constant with a progressively minded publication.

It’s been cool and funny watching this thing evolve over the course of a year, trying to balance the highs and lows of structurelessness. Places I have set up my laptop to edit an issue of The Media: inside a storage closet of a recording studio in Philadelphia, on the floor of my friend’s new apartment in Chicago, the basement of my parents’ house on Long Island, at a stranger’s empty dining room table in Brussels, in the back of the Mutual Benefit van on January tour.

I do miss the stability of biking to Faye’s apartment every Thursday to finish an issue, and the impromptu planning meetings in the second floor office at the Middle East (the Cambridge rock club where Faye used to work). But we’re figuring it out.

It’s been a lot of transience, but the Thursdays and Fridays spent tying up the last ends a new issue are always instant uppers. “Dreams come true again” – still the first thing I think every time an issue goes up.

I’m not into having heroes, but over the past year, I haven’t been able to help feeling like the Orloves, Faye and Matt, are truly my heroes. Faye’s name you obviously recognize, but without Matt helping us code each issue every week, these issues would never go up.

In this issue, we’ve decided to once again spotlight a few independent publications that we find to be inspiring: HUM Journal, RECAPS, and the Le Sigh. (Last year, in our first issue, we ran a series of interviews with underground Boston publications, “Start The Presses.”) You’ll notice the introduction is written by Chris Lee, whose name you maybe have noticed here more recently. I am continually impressed by Chris Lee’s way of pushing down boundaries between the academic world and the DIY world, and honored to have someone like him be part of the site.

I am very excited about our lead feature by Candace Clement, whose work with Free Press introduced me to the world of media reform activism in 2011 when I attended the organization “National Conference for Media Reform.” That conference gave me a much more nuanced look into the importance of media literacy and community media. I’m really not sure if this site would exist without that influence. Definitely check it out.

This issue also includes the ninth installment of FAN CLUB, a column penned by the very talented and inspiring Katie Alice Greer. Katie’s interviews with staples of the punk scene perpetually push the boundaries of what a conversation about music, punk, and fandom can look like. Her interviews often make my jaw drop in awe, much like the first time I saw Priests.

There is something about making an issue of The Media that legitimately feels handmade. Maybe it’s because we’re weirdos and still don’t have a CMS and re-code the entire site for every issue, and it takes way longer than it should. Maybe it’s because we still don’t have any “analytics” or whatever on our site and literally have no clue how many people read it. Maybe it’s because it’s all black and white. Maybe it’s because there are no ads. IDK. But posting a new issue of The Media, I feel something eerily similar to pulling a freshly-printed zine out of a photocopy machine. I guess I’m not so afraid of making zines anymore? Psyched for year 2.

<3, Liz

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