Monday, January 24, 2011

my life in the busy zone ...

I forget where I was this past month when someone asked me, as sometimes happens, “what do you do with Street Newz.”  I tell them “I’m the founder,” and they either respond with a blank look that indicates they don’t really believe me, or they’re duly impressed.  Either way, I rarely have a chance to tell them what else is involved.  I’m having a bit of a ranter’s block this flu season, combining illness with the change of life and activists’ anguish (watching while nothing really changes), so I’m gonna delve into the world of narcissism and self promotion and answer that question more thoroughly.

What I do with Street Newz has everything to do with what time of the month it is.  The two weeks prior to the release of each new paper is focused on production.  I sort through all the submissions that are sent to me, scan the international website for interesting stories to reprint from other street papers, check the web links sent to me, search for photos to go with articles, and painstakingly design and fit as much onto each page as possible.  I don’t really see the point of white space.  Even though we print on recycled paper, and always have, it’s still a resource that shouldn’t be squandered.  So I spend many hours, during a 10-14 day production cycle, sitting in front of a computer.

Throughout the entire month, including the time my main focus is Street Newz, I organize a public affairs radio program at CFUV.  It’s called the Winds of Change and it airs every other Thursday at 11 am.  I’ve been doing that for about 7 or 8 years.  It’s not a paid gig, but it’s very fun and I learn a lot from my guests about various peace, earth, animal rights, and social justice issues.  The show is podcast in a couple of different places, off our website and also at where it’s available as a free itunes subscription.  Organizing guests, doing a bit of research, airing the show, and then updating the websites occupies a few hours each month.

Another radio gig (unpaid), and something I’ve been doing for even longer than both Street Newz and the Winds of Change, is a 5-10 minute radio spot on my friend Chris Cook’s Gorilla Radio program.  Chris has been on air for over a decade, providing a very valuable alternative analysis of the invasions, the wars, their impact on the earth and all our lives, in addition to examining various local and regional concerns.  He blogs and podcasts at  I spend a couple of hours every Monday researching for the 5:30 update and also re-podcasting Gorilla Radio, after it’s aired, to the NCRA (National Community Radio Association) website, and to my own.  The show was recently picked up for syndication by CICK radio in Smithers.

Occasionally there are meetings, conferences, workshops, and gatherings associated with my radio life and I attend these whenever I can.  This summer I enjoyed a week on Gabriola Island at the annual national conference.  Thanks to the magic of technology, I was able to keep up with the Street Newz business while attending radio workshops.  Never underestimate the power of multi-tasking!

Between Street Newz and the radio, my days are busy enough.  After each newspaper has been released onto the streets, I put labels on papers for mailing to subscribers, and make the long trek by bus or bike out to the main post office.  I maintain the subscription list and send out reminders, update the monthly revenue and expenses, transfer these numbers into an annual spreadsheet file, and send completed Balance Sheets and Income Statements to our treasurer for approval.  These are really important documents when we apply for grant funding, which we’ve been very fortunate to receive each year since we began in 2004.  I’m also very grateful to Colin who prints the labels for me, and to Nancy and the provincial subsidy that pays for her to deliver the local subscriptions by bike. 

Writing grants is a very time consuming project, thankfully it’s something I only do once a year (knock on wood) and it’s a good use of my English degree. Searching for grants is a huge part of it because we’re a non-profit, but not a charity, and that reduces our eligibility enormously.  We really appreciate the cooperators who’ve supported us in past years, and hopefully in future years too.  

I stay in contact with what’s going on at a street level, depending a lot on John who sells the paper outside the mall on Douglas St. and who has become invaluable.  John screens new vendors, distributes papers to all the vendors, keeps diligent accounts, and reconciles that with me each month.  John also handles issues that may arise on the streets, whether it’s about territory (thankfully, these are rare) or individual health concerns that leave a vendor’s selling spot vulnerable.  John makes sure vendors have the correct badges, attaining those from City Hall, and tells me about any issues that need addressing from my end.  John has a cell phone and makes himself available to vendors at his ‘office’ on Douglas St., and also at his home.  I speak and meet with John regularly, stop and chat with vendors when I’m out and about, and every couple of months a vendor meeting provides an opportunity for us all to get together, get to know each other a bit better, and reflect on what an awesome team we are.  

I’m paid $800 a month to produce the Street Newz, maintain the accounting records, write grants, update the website, participate in NASNA conference calls, and meet with writers, vendors, and others interested in talking about the project.  Obviously that’s not enough to live on in Victoria, especially when you eat local organic food and invest in alternative health care, so I supplement my income by looking after peoples’ pets while they’re away on holidays.  

I pack up my office and work, in between walkies, from as far away as Qualicum Beach.  The doggies keep me extra busy, but they are also essential to my mental and emotional well-being.  I don’t deal with street issues first hand, that is I’m not on the front lines looking into the eyes of people who’ve been abandoned by society, but I do spend a lot of time reading and writing and thinking about them.  Also about the state of the earth and the corporate takeover of everything and how nothing we do seems to make much difference …… a walk with the doggies now and then takes me away from all that, focuses me on the precise moment I’m living, and strangely reassures me that perhaps there is something inherently benevolent in the universe after all.  I don’t think it’s a coincidence that God is Dog spelled backwards.  (Most) dogs are unconditional love.

As if all that isn’t enough, I also maintain a blog ( and forward email far and wide to various interested individuals.  For many years, starting in 2002, I produced the Left Coast events list, but that just got to be too much and thankfully ViPirg took it over and automated it ( in 2006.  But still I repost, report, reblog, and in the past few months I’ve begun to facebook and twitter as well.  I’m a bit of an alternative news junkie nerd.  When there’s time, energy, inclination I attend rallies and events and record, photograph, video.  Photos are posted at and the videos go in the bandcroft account at youtube.

Suffice it to say, I don’t have much of a social life.  I’d never be able to keep it all together without yoga.  I visit my elder parents whenever possible, and I volunteer at the Belfry Theatre.  I do like to attend other theatre (love the Fringe!) or musical offerings now and then.  In the summer I volunteer at the Vancouver Folk Festival, been doing that off and on since the 80s.  In 2008 and 2009 I participated on the Caravan to Cuba, which I blogged and wrote about (, but whenever I try to take a holiday I end up plugging in somewhere to keep in contact with what’s going on, to sort through email or do whatever Street Newz stuff might need doing. 

Thank you all so much for all your support, direct and indirect, this past year.  I wish I could say we’ll solve it all in 2011, but I really doubt that.  Luckily I love my work.  I’m honoured to be able to live my values, and provide a quality production that directly benefits some, and hopefully inspires many more.