Thursday, April 14, 2011

Meet the Editorial Committee

[Clockwise from lower left are August Mallory, Wes Browning, Jihad Salaam, Joe Howard, Teresa Reeves, Mary T Andrews, and Anitra Freeman.]

Well, meet some of it anyway. People wonder how Real Change newspapers are put together. There's an editorial department, run by our editorial manager Amy Roe, and including two reporters and a production assistant. Many volunteer writers accept assignments and some submit unsolicited work, which we consider. In addition to all that there's the editorial committee, or the "EC."

The idea of the EC is to provide grassroots input to the paper's content. All interested readers of the paper may apply. The principal activity of the committee is to brainstorm story ideas for future issues. So the main qualification to be accepted as a member is an ability to work well with others while bringing ideas to the table.

Currently the EC has 13 members, of which 8 are fully active vendors, 2 are semi-active vendors, and one (me!) is a highly inactive ex-vendor. (I was highly inactive when I was a vendor, too.) In this particular meeting 7 of us were on hand.

Besides brainstorming, the EC also spends a little time in each meeting looking through the most recent paper for errors that might need correcting, or stories that suggest follow-up.

Then, every month or so, we go over those unsolicited submissions I mentioned above. These are confidential sessions. A volunteer has previously blanked out the author's names on the submissions, so that we can vote to accept or reject blindly. Our acceptance is provisional -- the editorial manager makes the final decision.

This particular meeting was almost all brainstorming. Ideas batted around the table involved an upcoming anniversary of the Frye Hotel, a future guide to being homeless for the first time, a death on the street in Ballard, the relationships between panhandlers and vendors, an upcoming "carve-in," activities of neo-Nazi and similar organizations in the area, and the effects of budget cuts on ex-offender services.

Meetings are currently 2:30 to 4pm Thursdays in the Real Change vendor room, 96 S Main St. Guests and applicants are welcome the last Thursday of every month. Real Change vendors have preference and may apply at any meeting.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Serious Work at Real Change

Here at Real Change we take everything we do seriously. One of the things we do is have All Staff Meetings every two weeks. Those are meetings in which all the staff sit around a table and meet. In our seriousness about these meetings, we decided to dedicate one of our recent meetings to the question "What are All Staff Meetings for?"

Our Vendor Staff Director, Tara Moss agreed to facilitate that meeting. To prepare us all for the discussion she sent around a link to a video talking about research into the "marshmallow problem," " -- a simple team-building exercise that involves dry spaghetti, one yard of tape and a marshmallow. Who can build the tallest tower with these ingredients? And why does a surprising group always beat the average?"

The marshmallow problem is explained in the video accompanying the link. As a mathematician, I couldn't resist seeing not only whether I could build a reasonably sturdy tall tower of dry spaghetti, but whether I could build one entirely based upon the three Platonic solids having triangular faces. Would that support a marshmallow?

Yes. The picture, taken just before a tragic accident involving the tower and a coworker sitting upon it, proves it. That's Tara Moss herself in the background.