Due to the demands of deadlines, we didn't have the time to properly introduce ourselves in the April debut edition. As Ann Arbor's Alternative Newsmonthly, Agenda focuses on the news that doesn't find its way into the local mainstream media on a regular basis. As good as our local news sources are, they leave something to be desired when it comes to reporting on Ann Arbor's vast network of grassroots political organizations and community service organizations.
One look at the index of the Community Resource Directory (CRD) (see page 21) is all anyone should need to be convinced of the need for this paper (and this is only our second issue). These organizations do a tremendous amount of "newsworthy" work every day, work that benefits not only Ann Arbor but people all over the world. Agenda believes that these organizations and their work deserve more public attention and support than they are currently receiving.
The unique thing about Agenda is that all the organizations listed in the Community Resource Directory (CRD) write their own material (we do minor editing). They are given adequate space to publice their activities and are encouraged to provide general information about meetings, membership, goals, strategies, current news, coming events and community services.
In addition, these organizations and their members write feature/news articles for Agenda, tape-record speeches of speakers they sponsor, provide us with photographs, and help with production and distribution. At this point, Agenda relies almost totally on volunteer help and probably won't have the money it takes to pay for the full time staff it needs for some time to come.
Which brings us to the only sour note in all of this: Money.
One of the goals of Agenda is to increase participation in the available political processes, from meeting rooms to the voting booth. (Already, we have heard reports of new faces at the meetings listed in the April CRD.) To do this, we have to give the paper away for free (we print 10,000) in order to reach people who aren't necessarily going to buy a paper that is political in nature.
We are receiving a great deal of support from the Ann Arbor small business community by their willingness to advertise in Agenda. However, advertising revenues fall far short of providing the kind of revenues we need to continue publishing. What we really need is the support of individuals in the form of paid subscriptions.
If you like what you read, if you think that the organizations listed in the agenda are doing more work that deserves to be made more public, please fill out the subscription form on page 18 and send it to us soon.
With that aside, more needs to be said about how Agenda is put together. A great deal of the newspaper is written by the activist community -- people who are involved in grassroots politics and human services organizations who volunteer their writing as a way educating the public on a particular issue, and as a way of promoting the work of their respective organizations.
In addition to soliciting material from these sources, Agenda is able to field reporters now and then. We are calling our brand of reporting "verbatim journalism." The dictionary defines verbatim as "using exactly the same words; word for word." This approach is best exemplified by our "Why are you here?" series (see page 7), in which an Agenda staff member attends an event to ask participants their reasons for being there. We try to get a variety of opinions and we also try to print what we record in its entirety, believing that the reader can best draw conclusions after hearing a number of different eyewitness accounts.
This is different from standard journalistic practice in which reporters are sent into the field to gather data in order to substantiate a preconceived "angle." The "story", it seems, is sometimes written beforehand and the reporter searchers for quips and quotes to use as ornaments to it. If you have ever been a subject in a news or feature article, or have been at an event which is reported on TV or the next day's newspaper, you know the shortcomings of this standard approach.
Agenda's "verbatim" strategy has its shortcomings too. It is not a claim to objectivity or a necessarily more virtuous brand of journalism. It is an attempt to remove the reporter from the story and to give more weight to eyewitness accounts with the HOPE that this will result in a more accurate presentation of events and the motives of the participants.
HOW OFTEN DOES AGENDA COME OUT?
Every month. Our next issue will be out on June 1, 1986.
HOW IS AGENDA DISTRIBUTED?
10,000 copies are printed each month. 6,500 free copies are distributed from over 100 strategic locations in the Ann Arbor area. The remaining 3,500 copies are mailed to subscribers, targeted readers, and regular advertisers. Targeted readers are drawn from mailing lists of community organizations and receive three free promotional copies.
WHY SUBSCRIBE TO AGENDA WHEN YOU CAN GET IT FOR FREE?
Granted, you can walk into any number of places and pick up a free copy of Agenda. Some of you even receive it in the mail without charge. Like paying for public radio or public TV, subscribing to Agenda is an act of conscience and an act of generosity. It is also an act of neccesity, for without support from individuals, Agenda will not survive.
HOW DOES AN ORGANIZATION GET PUBLISHED IN THE COMMUNITY RESOURCE DIRECTORY?
First, the organization has to be appropriate to Agenda's format. This is determined on a case-by-case basis, and at this point it is up to interested organizations to come forward and begin the process. It doesn't cost anything to be listed on the CRD but each organization is responsible for the writing and editing of all material submitted on their behalf. The DEADLINE for submitting material is the 19th of the month prior to publication.
HOW CAN I GET INVOLVED IN AGENDA?
Agenda needs volunteers to do all kinds of tasks, from proofreading to distribution. If you are willing to help out, please give us a call at 996-8018. We also need news and feature writers and especially encourage non-professionals. If you think you have a great idea for an article, Agenda staff will gladly help you develop it into something for publication.