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Early next year, a new publication will hit the newsstands in the District and its surrounding suburbs. Its name is the Washington Spark. Its goal is to tap into an unrealized local market for news. It is a weekly and has an innovative distribution system. On Monday night, it held a fundraiser at Mimi’s American Bistro in Dupont Circle.
Here’s what really distinguishes the start-up from local competition: The Washington Spark will have a staff of 40 editors.
All those staffers will be working to produce an “alternative press publication” with four sections: “World,” “City,” “Neighborhood,” and “You.” (Disclosure: The Washington City Paper is classified as an alternative-press publication.) And none of the 40 editors will be getting rich in the processeveryone is a volunteer at the Spark.
The Spark is a creation of dc indymedia, the local subsidiary of a national movement to turn everyday people into a media force. The operation runs a Web site, DC.indymedia.org, on which regular folks can post their own write-ups on the latest progressive cause, such as gentrification or union-busting at area companies. (Disclosure: The alternative-press publication Washington City Paper occasionally runs “Real Stories” from nonwriters but generally mistrusts “the people.”)
Aspiring Spark writers and editors are a serious bunch of positive folks who are out to change the world. They rely on bootstrap organizing and are eager to bring progressive voices to a larger audience. “What’s great about the editors of Spark is that…they understand the role of culture in engaging people,” said local activist Sarah Browning at the Monday fundraiser. (Disclosure: Writers and editors of the alternative-press publication Washington City Paper frequently delete voice mail from progressive organizations.)
Spark founder Mark Cimino has faith in collective action. Under his plan, each one of the 40 editors will be responsible for one page of the 40-page publication. They’ll all send in their copy at deadline, and the decentralized Spark will spit out a finished product by Monday. Cimino calls the division of labor “very manageable.” (Disclosure: The alternative-press publication Washington City Paper sometimes requires as many as six editors to assemble a single page of copy.)
In keeping with its progressive politics, the Spark will have a page for local poets as well as a Spanish-language page. (Disclosure: The alternative-press publication Washington City Paper virtually ignores the local poetry scene and occasionally drops Spanish words into stories in ways that further ethnic stereotypes.)
According to Bill Boteler, one of the new paper’s key editors, the Spark will run on a shoestring budget but is seeking advertising revenues from “smaller community businesses and nonprofits.” Those entities would presumably share the progressive viewpoint of the publication. (Disclosure: The alternative-press publication Washington City Paper thrives on advertising from smaller porn-video providers.)
Spark Circulation Manager Donald Williams has designed a special “hub” arrangement for distributing the Spark. The publication is seeking drivers to take bundles of roughly 500 papers to 30 approved sites across the region. Volunteers will then pick up the piles and distribute papers to various spots in the community, including churches and libraries. (Disclosure: The alternative-press publication Washington City Paper relies on corporate distribution points such as Best Buy, Chipotle, and Tower Records.)
Monday night’s Spark fundraiser netted at least $123 from concerned activists, according to Boteler. (Disclosure: Staffers from the alternative-press publication Washington City Paper chipped in $331 to gamble on this year’s NCAA basketball tournament.)
The Sunday Source, Abridged
Dept. of Media’s reader hot line is ringing off the hook with complaints regarding the Washington Post’s Sunday Source.* “It’s just too much to handle,” says one tipster.* “Way too in-depth for my likes,” gripes another.*
The disquiet with Sunday Source, such as it is, stems from the section’s length. It just takes way too long to get through the 100-word items in the Source’s eight to 12 pages. Accordingly, Dept. of Media is introducing a reader’s guide for the Sunday Source, a recurring manual that will save you valuable Sunday leisure time over the coming years.
Dept. of Media’s Thursday Source for the Sunday Source also features reader-friendly categories that reorganize all the lifestyle options just for you:
Stuff That You’re Already Doing
Shopping: “[T]hese Sportwallets are colorful but masculine…”
Cleaning out your garage: “Sort through your possessions…”
Taking a road trip: “[O]n the way home, order thick shakes and fat burgers…”
Maintaining a fish bowl: “[A] turkey baster can be an essential tool!”
Eating leftovers: “Pasta, carrots, herbs and more make a savory dish.”
Running your car on vegetable oil: “[S]tore it in a cool place.”
Stuff That Only the Sunday Source Is Doing
Monogramming tank tops: “I’m so into the initial; I want it on everything.”
Stuff That Nobody Is Doing
Throwing a Czech dinner party: “Tuck in the sides of the leaf and fold the cabbage into a roll.”
Etching a carafe: “Don your protective eye gear and gloves…”
Stuff That You Might Do If You Had the Time
Making wine-glass charms: “Guests can pick the charm that best represents them…”
Interviewing a dog breeder: “Cleanliness is crucial, too.”
Stuff That’s Best Left to the Private Sector
Making your own chalk: “Don’t use containers you’d want to put back in a kitchen cabinet…”
Hunting for mushrooms: “[T]he majority of mushrooms…are highly toxic…”
We’re Pretty Sure Sunday Source Is Kidding
Reviving old cutlery: “[I]ncredibly fun and addictive…”
Turning empty baked beans cans into bookends: “Taking care to keep the label dry, wash out the interior of the cans…”
Journalists’ Film Festival
For most journalists, a day of work consists of the following: Making phone calls, attending a press conference, meeting with editors, and working at a keyboard. Maybe going somewhere and talking to somebody. Not too exciting, in other words.
The new Newseum scheduled to open at Pennsylvania Avenue and Sixth Street NW in 2006 has a simple solution for instilling a bit of zip into the portrayal of newsgathering: a 4-D movie theater. Visitors will get a media-oriented 3-D presentation with the added dimensionality of moving seats. “You may feel yourself moving in coordination with the film,” says Joe Urschel, the Newseum’s executive director and senior vice president.
Urschel won’t say what sort of gripping film will screen in the 350- to 500-seat theater, but he will say that it “won’t be something that you’ll be able to see anywhere else.” Presumably, that means the programming won’t overlap with that of other
moving-seats venues, such as Paramount Parks’ SpongeBob SquarePants 3-D or Universal Studios’ Shrek 4-D.
Once they step out of the multidimensional theater, museum guests will be greeted by…more films. According to Urschel, the mile and a half of exhibit trails includes about 2.5 hours of filmed content. Some of the films will add spice to the various new galleries at the Newseum, including one dedicated to sports journalism, a special exhibit on the Sept. 11 attacks, and a presentation featuring an expansive chunk of the Berlin Wall plus two of its guard towers.
The new, $250 million Newseum promises an upgrade over its now-shuttered digs in Rosslyn, Va., which had the feel of some exhibit space folded into a corporate park. Visitors will enter the exhibit area via a glass elevator that takes them five flights up, where they’ll have a view of the Capitol building and downtown landmarks. Then it’s off to the movies.
But an improved product often comes at a price, and Newseum execs are considering an admission fee. “It’s an idea that we’re studying,” says Urschel. Erik Wemple