Artist Justin Norris painted our photobooth backdrop

SWITCHBOARD'S BEEN LIVE FOR 1 MONTH AND WE'D LIKE TO CHECK IN WITH YOU

By Remy Schwartz and Duncan Sullivan

February 27, 2013

Switchboard Magazine launched at approximately 9:37pm on January 31st. Tomorrow will be our one month anniversary - er, our four week anniversary. In that time we’ve published 17 pieces from 12 different contributors: 1 interactive story, 3 original videos, 11 written pieces, and 782 original photographs (714 of which are from our launch photobooth).

In the last month we’ve built a three-man team into a semi-regular staff of fifteen women and men from Hampshire and UMass. Our staff has met four times. In that period we’ve started to build a leadership structure and establish dynamic roles within the group. In the midst of brainstorming and producing material for the website, we tirelessly discuss the tone and direction of Switchboard.

We talk about what kind of stories we publish and the different ways we tell them. We talk about what kind of people write for us, and we talk most about who reads and sees our stories, and who we’re not reaching.

We call Switchboard a ‘culture’ magazine for the 5 Colleges, and we understand that that’s a pretty big claim. To be a true culture magazine for this community we would need to capture so much vibrance and intellect and curiosity and diversity. We would need to represent a thousand subcultures that exist within this valley, and we would need to give equal voice to people from all five colleges.

We know that we haven’t done that yet, but we want you to know that we’re trying. We’ve heard lots of criticism in the last month. Some of it helpful, some of it insulting, some of it disheartening, and all of it appreciated.

We are a young, growing organization. We’ve worked tirelessly to build what we have so far, and we’re nowhere near the end. Switchboard will never really be done, but especially not while we’re at the helm.

Of all of the criticism we’ve heard, a few things have stuck out, and we’d like to address them directly:

 

How can you claim to represent the culture when you’re all straight white people?

Our writers represent a relatively small group of people. We’re mostly Hampshire students, we’re mostly white people, and a majority of us are non-queer individuals. We’re well aware of all of those trends, and we’re as bothered by them as you are. If we are going to fairly and accurately discuss the culture of the Pioneer Valley, it is essential that we publish a large variety of diverse voices. Representing multiple perspectives is crucially important to us, and we’re working to expand our staff.

We would like to take the opportunity to put this issue to you, our fans and our critics, to help us. We are two white, straight men. In the last month we have been joined by a wonderful group of compassionate, smart, willing people. Every week we put out numerous calls for new writers and contributors, but we have yet to develop a strong sense of diversity on our staff. If you feel like Switchboard is not accurately representing your voice - please, please consider joining us.

We need to be a more dynamic organization, and to do that we need some of the people throwing stones to help lay bricks. We sincerely care about building a publication that better represents you, so help us.

You say you’re a 5 College publication, but that’s not true.

We call ourselves a publication for the 5 Colleges but a majority of our writers and content are largely Hampshire specific. That is completely valid and we’re working everyday to address it.

We’re doing that in a number of different ways. The first is the establishment of a new position on our staff. As of last week, Hampshire third-year Suanny Garcia accepted the role of Switchboard 5 College Editor. Suanny will work to build relationships and connections at all five campuses through a variety of initiatives.

This week we’re working to solidify a partnership with a popular pre-existing media organization at Smith College that we’re hoping will build our reach in Northampton. We are trying to work with people and organizations throughout all five colleges, but that network will take some time to grow. If you've got suggestions on how we can do that better, please submit them below.

What happens when you guys graduate in May? Won’t Switchboard fall apart?

Switchboard will be around next year, and the year after that. We are working to build a foundation that will allow the magazine to live on sustainably. That will involve institutional partnerships with departments throughout the 5 Colleges and the development of a Switchboard Editorial Oversight Committee that's made up of professors and faculty.

We have a number of initiatives that are in flux that we’re not totally ready to talk about yet, but we are working hard to build a long-term structure. If you want to be involved now, or next year, reach out. Be involved.

*

We really, really appreciate all the support we've received thus far. We love all of the people that have become Switchboard readers, and we'd like to see that group quadruple. Thank you for reading, and thank you for everything.