2- Stop the presses – why we decided to postpone the fall issue

You may have noticed that there wasn’t a fall 2018 issue of Slingshot. We intended to publish one, but when the article deadline arrived, there weren’t enough quality articles for us to make the paper. Sometimes when that happens we publish a lower-quality issue or scramble to get a few after-deadline, last-minute articles thrown together so the issue isn’t so bad. This time we decided to wait.

During the pause, there were some inspiring meetings with a dozen people, yummy dinner, dessert, candles, and wine to talk about how to reinvigorate the project and improve our internal process.

Most of us feel like it is still worth it to print Slingshot on paper — which is increasingly unusual and has some disadvantages in the internet-world. Right before this issue, long-running punk zine Maximumrocknroll announced they would stop paper publishing. Printing on paper is super expensive and distribution is labor and fossil-fuel-intensive. The idea is that a paper publication may be able to get beyond the internet echo chamber – where computer algorithms feed you familiar ideas and voices.

On the other hand, writing an article for a publication that prints 22,000 copies limits your ideas to those 22,000 copies — or at least that has been the case for Slingshot. It has been years since any Slingshot articles got any meaningful distribution on the internet or through social media, so writing Slingshot articles feels like yelling into a void where only a few people may ever hear you. You do just as much work as if you were writing for an on-line audience, but with much less reach. Slingshot readers are surprised to hear that Slingshot articles are posted on-line at the Slingshot website — and that this has been the case for the last 25 years. Who even knew Slingshot had a website …

Anyhow, at the inspiring Slingshot meeting to discuss the postponed issue, there were a lot of engaging ideas:

• We should do things differently and maybe make different types of of publications like mini-issues, issues with less text, issues just on a single theme, etc.

• We should only print really “good” articles and less filler and embarrassing articles. However, defining what is a “good” article can be hard in a collective with many different voices and ideas. We agreed that we want to still try to include work from a variety of voices emphasizing content, not style.

• Someone suggested publishing a survey in the issue and on-line to see what readers want and where they got the paper, etc. (You can mail in the little survey thingy below.)

• The collective could have more meetings between issues to workshop article ideas and insert group ideas into individual author’s work. Maybe it could be like a writer’s guild. It didn’t happen between October and the issue you hold in your hands.

• The group decided to spend a few meetings to work out a better process to avoid recent problems around decision making, printing articles not everyone agreed with, and people having a big voice without sticking around to do the shit work. As of today, the process discussion is still unfinished.

• We decided we needed to have better established alternatives to publishing an issue after a deadline if the articles that are turned in aren’t good enough.

• We discussed how we could locate really good articles, including maybe putting into print articles that are only published on-line. That didn’t happen for this issue, either. A possible problem is that a lot of authors need to be paid, and Slingshot is an all-volunteer project that doesn’t pay authors…

• Perhaps the paper could have regular columns and regular sections in the paper. This suggestion also didn’t happen in this issue.

• Another good idea was to invite people to speak at Long Haul and then publish the result as an interview.

• Each issue there is a brainstorm for article topics. A comment was to make the brainstorm more than just topics for articles but focus on articles people at the meeting will actually write, and then having a discussion to help them develop their ideas.

• And as the meeting was winding down, we discussed sending the paper to shelters for battered women in addition to prisons. About 10% of Slingshot issues are mailed to prisoners.

Slingshot needs to find decent articles, and that is very difficult. Every article doesn’t have to relate to current events, but the articles turned in for the issue that got postponed were almost all rants that mentioned topics but then quickly went off into confusing tangents. The big issues at the top of everyone’s mind — sexual harassment, climate change, income inequality, police killings, immigration, the recent prison strike — were all missing. It was like the articles that reached us were from a universe far, far away or maybe they were from Russian trolls. They felt like distractions.

The process of making Slingshot is fun which is the main reason it keeps going. Layout weekend is like a lengthy party and community gathering. But if the paper continues having such a hard time finding good articles, the project is organically coming to an end.

The collective could decide to continue publishing the Organizer, but put the paper on extended hibernation until rebellion in the streets or other external events require us to make an issue. In the early years, the paper was infused with the direct actions happening in the streets and maybe it needs that to compensate for the messy layout and rough-written articles.

In an uprising, everyone takes up the tools they have access to, and for better or worse Slingshot collective finds itself with this zine. On the plus side, we have excellent grassroots distribution, some fans, and funding isn’t a problem. It is obvious that there are better publications and doing an all-volunteer collective project imposes limitations. Revolt is messy — so is the Slingshot office.


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