Pub Notes: How we got a Bat Signal and what we plan to do with it

by Chris Horne, publisher

“You are remembered for the rules you break.” – Gen. Douglas MacArthur

This is the alt-weekly I worked for in Macon, Georgia, where Otis Redding used to live.

We, The Devil Strip and all the people who have been supporting it, are now T-minus 26 days and counting to the first issue. I am alternately elated and terrified. This feels, depending on the exact moment, like either the greatest or dumbest idea I’ve ever pursued. (Once, I interviewed Gary Busey. Same feeling.) But the people I meet make me grateful I’m doing this. They keep me going. My eyes are opened daily to cool, new, weird and awesome things.

Like having lunch with Helena Larios, touring neighborhoods with Akron2Akron or sipping dirty chai and holding big conversations with Liz, Max and Jason at Urban Eats — or speaking to 100 Torchbearers about what we’re doing, or learning how to make Akron coffee with Albert Masco, or joining the board for the newly-minted nonprofit version of Crafty Mart. That’s not an uncommon week for me these days.

So, step one to starting a magazine — or anything worth anything at all — is to find your people.

Even if meeting people was all I had to do — even if I could just sit and write stories about them all day without worrying about print runs and layout and selling ads and finding freelancers and distribution locations, keeping the editorial calendar on track, posting and sharing and losing sleep over everything, I wouldn’t. The struggle is real. And I enjoy it. Every hurdle hurdled equals another few people to reach with these stories and a few others who’ll end up in the next stories.

It didn’t start out this way for me. About four months ago, I quit my relatively well-paying (and relatively easy) day job where I worked with a host of talented and kind people. Initially, I panicked. For a week, leaving my house was an accomplishment. Going to the OSC Tech Lab or sitting at Nervous Dog and Angel Fallsinteracting with other human beings! — was a challenge. Now, it’s just my calendar.

There are a lot of people to thank already — Beth Boggins, Bridget Ambrisco, Nicole Mullet, Jessica Cherok, James Hardy and Jenny Conn chief among them — and there will be more by the time I’m holding that first issue and am crying awkwardly in the parking lot of whatever gas station is closest to the printer.

My wife, Dr. Heather L. Braun, tops that list. She’s amazing. If she weren’t, we wouldn’t be in Akron, and I wouldn’t be this happy. This whole thing started when I sheepishly mentioned I was kinda, sorta thinkin’ about maybe doing something like an alt-weekly because Akron doesn’t have one— and she didn’t shoot it down. In fact, she was supportive. In the end, I was the one who needed convincing, to take the leap, as it were.

Last week, someone questioned *why* I’d start a print magazine in a digital age when content is increasingly consumed more on phones and tablets. Honestly, I wondered why I hadn’t heard that more.

It’s a little bit that I’m old school and like the tactile experience of print, but it’s more that local digital-only media has a harder time standing out. With the magazine, Akronites can stumble across our large, tabloid magazine in the restaurants, bars, coffee houses and arts organizations they already frequent while finding more places to try and more people to meet.

As I put it in our media kit, the print magazine will be our Bat Signal, going up every couple of weeks so “our people” — the smart, creative, passionate and civic-minded — not only find us but also the people we’ve met. This way, they can connect and we can all do more together.

In practical terms, The Devil Strip is just an arts, entertainment and culture website and print alt-weekly. In practice, however, it’s a stretch of common ground for the creative community — its creators, consumers and evangelists alike — to play, mix and mingle. Or that’s the plan.