As a first year student at Rhodes College, I feel like The Bridge and I have a lot in common. We’re fairly new in Memphis, greatly anticipated, worthy of our own Facebook page, dedicated to helping others, well put-together, and, most of all, masters at looking effortless despite the hours of hard work we put into every day. Although divulging the woes of eighteen year old girlhood over the internet sounds like an absolutely fantastic idea, the life of The Bridge deserves more attention and is much more interesting, I can assure you.
I met with James Ekenstedt, a founder of the paper, to make sense of the process, and was amazed by the multitude of roles both Rhodes students and Memphis community members play in the newspaper’s creation. Let’s break it down:
Before each edition of The Bridge, the editor in chief (Chloe Bryan) assembles her team of passionate Rhodents to share ideas. Students present at the meeting include an art director (Monique Hager), a homeless director (Aaron Banks), an associate editor (Nathan Bishop), a layout and design team (Sam Clark, Megan Barnes, Ellie Skochdopole), and the directors of the paper (Shiven Samant, James Ekenstedt). Together, the team drafts a conceptual copy using a blank template of sixteen pages in Google Drive before getting to work.
The team assigns most articles to volunteer Rhodes student writers, but some citizens of Memphis who have a history of homelessness also craft content. The homeless director attends a weekly writing program at Memphis’ The Door of Hope (http://doorofhopememphis.org/) and meets with members of the community to request articles. The writers he recruits there earn anywhere between ten and twenty-five dollars per article depending on content and word count.
The art director assigns student photographers to articles or finds images on an online database or Focus for the Good, another nonprofit that photographs homelessness to raise awareness. Homeless community members also sometimes produce artwork for fifteen dollars.
Once the articles and artwork arrive on the team’s desk, they edit it and pass it to the layout team, who manipulate and beautify the newspaper in a process that’s even trickier than an eighteen year old girl’s morning routine.
Before the newspaper hits the press, a volunteer freelance editor, Jamie Young, copy-edits it and sends it back to the layout and design team for a final touch-up. The staff releases The Bridge on the last Thursday of every month.
Now, phew! The paper is done! But really, that’s only half of it. The newspaper still needs to be distributed, sold, and advertised. To learn more about how The Bridge provides jobs for homeless members of Memphis, keep an eye out for the second half of this article, in which I’ll offer uncensored details about how The Bridge gets around and makes bank.