Our vision for AltDaily’s future.
From the beginning, the mission of AltDaily has been to create and celebrate culture in Norfolk and Hampton Roads.
This means that we are not your typical magazine. Unlike traditional news sources, who report from the edges of the fray, we don’t mind causing a little fray now and again. The word ‘celebrate’ on its own also removes us from the classic objective hard news paradigm. Though we can be, and are, critical at times, ultimately we are cheerleaders for the region. We want people to be happy here. We do want this place to be vibrant, livable, fair, and fun. We don’t shy away from this mission; we run towards it, sometimes with abandon.
But the question remains: at its core, is AltDaily a magazine that sometimes does events and engages in activism? Or is AltDaily a culture creator, the magazine being one part of the greater system?
Over the last few months it has become clear that we are the latter. To take it a step further, we don’t hesitate to state that we consider AltDaily something of a centrifuge for a greater movement. We want to make all of our lives better here, today, tomorrow, and with a sustainable infrastructure for the future.
So the magazine is the integral cog, but from now on, when you see the name AltDaily, we want you to think of a group of citizens dedicated toward bettering their community.
But what does better mean? First of all, better does not mean tearing down and starting over. Our existing community is lovely and wonderful as it is. We love it here. That’s why we stay. That’s why we fight so hard, fight as hard as anybody does. If it ever comes off like we’re hating on this place, we’re sorry. It is tough to strike the right balance and tone between wanting to be a part of a positive change, while not making the existing stakeholders feel slighted. We have made mistakes with our words, and we of course will still. Please know that we do appreciate our region’s rich history and what previous generations have done to bring us to where we are now. Try to know that, and please give us the benefit of the doubt when we slip up, okay?
To the contrary of wanting to tear it all down and start fresh, one of our primary values with AltDaily is the belief that existing architecture and neighborhoods must be honored. As a guiding principle, we strongly favor the use of existing structures (especially historic ones) over new developments. We have history here, but we live with that history only to the degree that it is active and alive in our lives. History is something that must be cultivated too.
Better also means a shift in political discourse from the stale liberal vs. conservative dialogue. We believe this is a false paradigm propagated by the major political parties as a tool to divide us. The easiest way to motivate people is through fear, and the creation of the ‘other.’ The political parties get that, and they have callously used that psychology to just about tear this country apart at the seams. Screw all that. Much, much more brings us together than which divides us. We all want to live someplace where we feel safe. We all want to look after the neediest. We all value a physically beautiful environment. None of us want to go down as the generation that missed the chance to save the planet. We need to hold onto these common goals. We need to embrace real solutions over empty rhetoric. That’s why one of our primary values is a focus on research-based, non-politically guided solutions to the problems that face our communities. There are thousands of communities out there facing the same problems we are, and many of them are experimenting with innovative strategies for ameliorating problems. When facing an issue we must first study existing methods; we must read the professional journals of city planners, economists, sociologists, architects, medical professionals, and others; before we form opinions we must always first ask: Who else has faced this, what did they do, what were their results, and what is applicable to us here? And we take it from there.
In the interest of being as apolitical as possible, we have chosen as our values issues we feel serve the whole community. We encourage people to be citizens first. We are not our race, religion, sexuality, or tax bracket. We are all we have. We are all in this together.
Specifically, we have dedicated ourselves to movements that make Norfolk/Virginia Beach more open, more beautiful, healthier, and better prepared for the generations that will follow us on this cherished land. Along with the highlighted above, the following are our values.
A Bike-Friendly Community
We strive to be part of creating a cycling-friendly infrastructure. Cycling affects so many aspects of our community. A strong cycling culture reduces congestion, provides transportation options, encourages a healthier populace, and since it is so damn fun and freeing to ride a bike, it is a quality of life issue.
Where we’ve been: Jesse is part of the leadership of Bike Norfolk, whose most recent success was a killer float in the Grand Illumination Parade.
Where we could be going: How to bike & How to drive around cyclists PSA campaign; pro-cycling rallies; developing comprehensive cycling plans for cities using GIS research methods and technology; lobbying local governments for bike lanes, share the road signs, and anything else that makes our community more bike friendly, while not impeding on the rights of drivers; spearheading public bike share programs.
A LGBT-Friendly Region
Any instance in which members of the LGBT community are treated differently than their straight peers is, in our opinion, a serious civil rights issue. Beyond the big’uns, like Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and marriage rights, we strive to help create an environment where the LGBT community feels welcome, accepted and loved, wherever they may go.
Where we’ve been: We have put a lot of our energies toward getting Out in the Park, the largest local annual LGBT event, to Town Point Park; we’ve recently started a weekly listing of LGBT events; Jesse is a member of Hampton Roads Pride, and Hannah is a member of Hampton Roads Business OutReach; and let’s be honest, we’re not the straightest arrows in the satchel ourselves.
Where we could be going: Forums on local LGBT culture; pro-LGBT in Hampton Roads campaigns; encouraging things like Dan Savage’s “It Gets Better” campaign; when DADT is overturned–and it will be–striving to be part of the solution in encouraging an open, honest, and loving military for all members.
Public Art (and more art in general)
Cities and regions have a spirit. That spirit is actualized in what the citizens physically see as they make their way through their community. Public art is a reminder of the brave, beautiful, childlike, unstoppable spirit just below the surface of our world. Plus, we just really dig art and want to see it everywhere.
Where we’ve been: We were partners in the Art | Everywhere project Downtown; we are spearheading the Hampton Roads, The Canvas project; both Jesse and Hannah are currently serving on public arts commissions; The Chalking of Ghent.
Where we might be going: More storefront art projects; more boarded-up buildings painted by local artistic talent; running a gallery space filled with local artists; encouraging a larger audience for our local artists through calendars, T-shirts, and other items featuring their work; developing a warehouse-style artist space.
That same civic spirit comes alive not just through what we see, but also in what we hear. At AltDaily we are like tragic teens when it comes to music: it is everything to us. In this world of auto tune, downloads, and prepackaged musical star products, it’s imperative that a strong connection remain between people and real, live musicians. Plus, street performers have a way of providing the soundtrack to our city lives, and the joy they spread is undeniable.
Where we’ve been: The creation of SPIN: Street Performing in Norfolk; SPIN nights, where we encourage acts to come out and play; lobbying local leaders to create and/or change ordinances to encourage more street performance.
Where we might go: More lobbying and events; compilations of music from local street performers; street performance festivals.
Local Music Scene
SPIN is a companion to our efforts to support the local music scene. We sincerely believe that the talent here exists to position Norfolk/Virginia Beach as the next Austin or Seattle, if on a smaller scale. We want to help.
Where we could go: More concert series, featuring different genres; creating a dedicated local music magazine; developing a recording studio; helping to manage local acts with the intention of making them national so they can go forth and represent all the greatness we have here; major music festival.
We are deeply cynical about the effect large corporations are having on the integrity of our local communities. Thank the Lord there are still strong local businesses around, fighting the homogenization of American culture. Since small business owners live here, they inherently care more about our community than do CEOs in skyscrapers in faraway cities, men and women in suits who are implicitly ignorant to what makes it special to live in Hampton Roads. Locally-owned businesses protect what makes us special, and they add to it. Plus, 70 cents of every dollar spent locally stays in the community; a small fraction of what we spend at chains stays here, taking money out of the local economy and further broadening the gap between rich and poor in this country.
Where we’ve been: The Norfology campaign is heading in the direction.
Where we might go: Small business development workshops; bringing together entrepreneurs and investors; lobbying for small business-friendly legislation.
Local Food / Urban Gardening
An America where food production is highly concentrated on a relative handful of factory farms scares us; we remain cynical of genetically modified foods; clearly, food frozen and pumped full of preservatives are not food as Mother Nature intended, and our bodies are paying the price. Highly processed food scares us. While junk food and fast food are killing us, our local farms and farmers are helping keep us alive. And there’s no reason why everyone with a few spare square feet of land can’t be farming on a micro scale as well.
Where we could be going: Developing community gardens throughout Hampton Roads.
We must hang out. We must laugh. We must chillax. We must dance. We must sing and play and be one with our hearts.
Where we could be going: We’re going to freak you out in so many awesome ways.
At the end of the day, we hope that AltDaily is facilitating good citizenship. Regionalism and individual civic pride are a big part of that. Being educated on the issues that affect our lives is a big part of that. When you love someplace you protect it, you know?
Where we could be going: Pro-regional merchandise; community forums; voter registration drives; white papers.
In the Future…
We would like to be a part of the solution when it comes to issues like early childhood education, recycling, homelessness, veteran re-integration programs, and sustainable energy development. But we’re not there yet.
These last few issues don’t present values so much as provide the groundwork of a dialogue so that you, the reader and our friend, can better understand the inner workings of AltDaily.
For reference, Hannah is the publisher and creative director; she also appears every Friday on WVEC talking about local events. She is in charge of our events, merch, marketing, print materials, and overall direction of the company. I am the editor and something of a community liaison. My life is what I have written here. We are the only two full-time paid staff members involved with AltDaily. We only stop working to sleep and when our sanity is being noticeably affected. On a more personal level, longtime AltDaily readers know that Hannah and I used to go steady, but we broke up a few months ago. This has been unspeakably hard. But we still love each other, and as much as we want to run away from the pain of our breakup, we stay together through this, because of this. We are living in a bad Greg Kinnear movie. It is tragic and rewarding and there are a lot of sight gags. (Hereby ends the Oprah section of our statement of purpose.)
1. We are Norfolk-centric. We know this. You know this. There’s no reason to hide it. The first reason for this is pragmatic: Hannah and I both live in Norfolk, and our contributors tend to be people in our greater social circle. And people like to write about where they live.
But there’s a more important, deeper issue at play here. We believe the best way to encourage good citizenship is to be citizen leaders ourselves. The best way we know how to do this is to take our home, Norfolk, and do our best to make it the greatest little city it can be. Do we care about the rest of Hampton Roads? Of course. Virginia Beach will always be Hannah’s home, for example. But our focus is on helping Norfolk be great, with the hope that you all in the other cities take the responsibility for your hometowns. And when you do, please let us know. We want to publish your stories on AltDaily too. Fair deal?
2. We give our events a lot of coverage. Yes, there is a certain bias to this. But, at the same time, we create those events for the expressed purpose of bettering the community and culture; when we support our events through legitimate editorial, it is part of our greater mission.
3. We are relatively poor. We more-or-less go month to month on our bills. Neither of us has health insurance. I have no car, and there’s no way I could possibly afford one. Hannah’s car is falling apart, and there’s not much she can do about it at the moment. We are saving zero dollars doing this business. We are barely getting by, but we love what we do, and we have hope for the future, and that’s okay with us.
4. Until conditions drastically change, we won’t be able to pay contributors. While we would love to financially support our local writers and photographers, there are tangible benefits to the way we’re doing things: Writers write not for the promise of financial gain, but because they are passionate. We think this comes through in the writing. We have been the first publication for dozens of local writers, photographers, and artists, creative virtuous that are now that one step farther on their path. This is special and awesome. To be the editor of someone’s first professional clip is as rad as being someone’s first kiss, at least to us. If we were paying, we wouldn’t necessarily have quite the same mindset of taking the time to tutor and mentor up-and-coming talent the way we (try to) do. That might sound ugly, but it’s funny how money changes the situation, right? What’s more, we do everything in our power to help our contributors advance in their careers. It all is what it is, at least for now.
5. None of the above changes AltDaily’s journalistic standards. We still state our connection to stories. We still check facts. We still don’t make things up, or leave things out to further the cause de jour. We are still legit.
So, there you have it. Who we are, all laid out in black and white.
Have questions or concerns? Please reach out. Please communicate with us. Let us know when we screw up. Let us know when we do well. We are all in this together. We can make this place whatever we want it to be. Really, we can.
And when all else fails, we still maintain the right to overpower the haters with the force of our good will.