I had the idea for East West, then known as EW Woman, while working at The Arizona Republic so many years ago. Parked in an editorial planning meeting for the wedding issue of the paper’s new style/fashion insert, I suddenly felt different from my colleagues. I had nothing to contribute. My wedding experiences were far different from those of mainstream America. I went to weddings of a different sort throughout my childhood…those with saris, mehndi and days of boisterous celebration.
Back at my desk, I realized stories about teeth whitening and vintage shopping just weren’t cutting it. I had other stories to tell, those of my culture and the diversity I grew up in. And I wasn’t just thinking of the Indian community I grew up in. My friends, my world — as a brown girl growing up in white Scottsdale — was always a diverse mix. I got along with everyone, but always related most to my peers from other ethnic backgrounds, those that navigated two cultures.
The research began.
Were there magazines out there for this niche, those covering a merging of cultures? I only found Jade, an online magazine, at the time. So I went for it. Two months later the first online issue of East West appeared. Eight months later we made the switch to print. Two months before that I lost my biggest champion. He helped me to refine my business plan and he found every mistake on the Web site, whether I wanted him to or not. He truly was East West’s first copy editor. I lost dear dad in December. East West in print premiered in February. I threw myself into my work. I threw myself into this dream. I had nothing else, or so I felt.
Today, that need to push forward and push hard has quieted within me. I have emerged from the cloud, I have other loves and other things to enjoy now. And I realize that in my fight to make it, I lost the story. The last two issues of East West made this clear. Overwhelmed at making the business side shine, I lost my love of the story. When East West first began, we stood out because of the true heart that went into every editorial decision, because of the risks we took to tell important stories, because we were forward thinkers. The last two issues still spoke to these values, but I personally felt less engaged. I felt less of me went into those stories because of the stress of business.
I came across a publication out of North Carolina recently, The Sun. Founded 30 years ago as a for-profit business, today it runs on reader support only. It is a non-profit, ad free. It is all about the story.
A quote from their “About” section, “The Sun is an independent, ad-free monthly magazine…that has used words and photographs to invoke the splendor and heartache of being human. The Sun celebrates life, but not in a way that ignores its complexity. The personal essays, short stories, interviews, poetry, and photographs that appear in its pages explore the challenges we face and the moments when we rise to meet those challenges.”
The Sun’s platform makes me wonder. Could East West strip away the fashion and the gloss and become a non-profit digest? Would that reignite my passion? Would that please you, the reader?
What if we focus back on the stories that changed readers’ lives and made the media and the mainstream hear us…from Asian Americans and Aids to Minority Medical Disparities and first person accounts of merging culture in relationships, career and more?
What if? But then again, as marketing experts will say, ‘How can you mobilize such a diverse readership?’ Will pan-Asia America really support their own media?
* As usual the East West reader is quiet in public comments, a more contemplative bunch. We were never able to get a true online community started, but that isn’t what you wanted…you all wanted the story/the content.
Anyway, I digress, I did receive many emails from yesterday’s post. Thank you for the thoughts, ideas and support. Keep them coming. I want to hear your ideas. Don’t be shy. I am opening up here with stories I rarely tell. It is scary, but necessary.