One year ago today, The Seattle Star posted our first article.
Looking back at that day, one will see the emphasis was heavy on the arts. The eleven posts of the day comprised: three photographic sequences, two photographs, two videos, a short fiction, a short play, a poem and a preview of West of Lenin’s Pali Chant Suite. So began our reputation as an “arts journal.”
That day we made a break with the past. Jose Amador, Dikla Tuchman, Heather Logue and I had all worked at Seattlest.com together a mere two days earlier. We agreed that The Seattle Star should not go the direction of Seattlest: glib, lackadaisical, corporate, more concerned with numbers than with content. We wanted something that spoke about Seattle to the world, but without being provincial or smug. We wanted a higher caliber of writing and an actual seriousness and dedication that did not parade about town with tongue-in-cheek or other snarky affectations.
The imperative was to create a completely new approach to an online magazine. When so much other online reading is painful and even nauseous, we wanted to be a pleasant reading experience. We wanted a clean design based upon legibility. We wanted to use the multimedia capabilities of the Web to enhance superior prose articles. We wanted articles in sound and vision but fundamentally as an expansion of reading, not as a replacement for it.
We also agreed that writing was hard work and deserved compensation. Where Seattlest existed almost completely on free labor beyond its editors, the model for The Seattle Star, we thought, should provide some way for staff to be paid. Yet we wanted to avoid the obnoxious advertising that so often destroys the reading experience.
A year later, I still hold to those fundamental principles. Our vision is essentially unchanged. I have accepted one advertisement–but it was from a family member, and restricted to the home page rather than each post. I have experimented with TipTheWeb and PayPal donations and though my thinking on the matter has evolved somewhat, I will keep this in place for the immediate future. To be the journal I wish, the Star must rely upon readers for support. Readers on the web often do not value what they read; the process seems so remote and abstract that it is easy to forget it takes thinking, working human beings to make it all happen. But my optimism believes that will eventually turn around.
We have over the past year come close at times to what I think the Star should be doing. There has been some extremely fine writing, not only about the arts but about our cultural life at large. Mark Twain’s beautiful piece on the Occupy movement certainly stands out and most recently, Alvin L.A. Horn’s op-ed inspired by the Newtown slayings. The future of the Star lies that direction, even further down that path.
We have also had some remarkable new voices. The poetry of Graham Isaac has been a revelation, and the visual arts writing of Mairi Snow has been nothing short of brilliant. Cole Hornaday’s profiles of local artists has convinced me of the richness of our city, and reminded me of exactly how much there is to be found here–and of how little we truly know about it all.
All in all I have been pleased with the mix of voices and the level of our content. But I have the distinct feeling that we are only beginning. I have by no means met my goals. We have many more directions to expand and much more to say. Come what may, rest assured that we will be here for many more anniversaries.
Omar Willey was born at St. Frances Cabrini Hospital in Seattle and grew up near Lucky Market on Beacon Avenue. He believes Seattle is the greatest city on Earth and came to this conclusion by travelling much of the Earth. He is a junior member of Lesser Seattle and, as an oboist, does not blow his own trumpet. Contact him at omar [at] seattlestar [dot] net