We’re Growing: New Stories and Voices
Today, I’m excited to announce some new developments here at No Depression. First, we’ve hired Cameron Matthews as editor of nodepression.com. You may know Cameron from his work at the Bluegrass Situation, where he helped to build a vibrant, far-reaching audience for what was then a fairly new web-based publication focused on bluegrass and more. He helped to solidify and extend the BGS’s unique editorial voice and establish their social media strategy.
It’s not just what Cameron did at the BGS that we love about him, though. He comes to No Depression with many years of experience in both editorial management and this music we love. Cameron is originally from Missouri, but has been living in New York City for seven years. He began his journalism career at AOL Music where he was an associate editor for indie rock blog Spinner, and was the digital director of the Bluegrass Situation for three years. He’ll be working out of his home and various coffee shops in Queens, New York, to oversee our staff reviewers and columnists, and to beef up our online writing staff and social media conversation (which will still be managed by Social Media Editor Stacy Chandler) with new contributors, news, and other things.
This is welcome news to yours truly, especially, as I’ve been managing both nodepression.com and the print journal for the past year – two ostensibly separate publications that share a voice, vision, and legacy. It’s been a fun year spinning all these plates, but I am ready to focus entirely on this new era of what No Depression is capable of accomplishing on paper, in the analog world. I will still be around the web, granted. As Editor-in-Chief, I will continue to contribute to the site on occasion and Cameron will report to me as he brings new features and voices into the mix.
But my brain has always functioned better in the longform anyway, so that is where the bulk of my attention will be.
To deepen our print offerings, you may recall, I’ll be working in 2017 with the first recipient of the annual No Depression Writing Fellowship, Sarah Smarsh. Sarah was born and raised in Kansas and, though she has a deep unwavering love and adoration for roots music, has made her living “writing about public policy and US politics through the lens of my upbringing among the working rural poor in Kansas.” Her work has appeared in The Guardian, Guernica, McSweeney’s, The Texas Observer, online with The New Yorker, and elsewhere.
The ND Writing Fellowship gives its recipient the unique opportunity of focusing on one story for a full year, giving them room to dig deeper into a subject than any single article might allow. Sarah will be writing 40,000 words for ND over the course of 2017, which we will publish in installments across the year’s four print journals. Her subject: the ways in which Dolly Parton has given voice to white working-class feminism. Or, as she described it in her proposal:
That feminism, which reaches far back in time and speaks in true stories rather than the academic jargon or overt identity politics of today’s chattering class, is the voice of an American woman who otherwise goes unheard: the poor woman, the poor mother, the female at once least valued by society and essential among the working class, that keeps our country humming. While the story will cite other artists, I plan to use Dolly Parton’s career over the decades as a springboard and arc for exploring intersections of gender, class, and country music.
As is true of everything in the journal, this four-part story will only be available in print. I’ve heard questions about that fact all year – folks asking me why we’re not joining the trend of print publications publishing their best work online, so people can share it on social media. I understand the complaint; I disagree with its premise.
This decision is mostly ideological. No Depression has never prioritized following trends. We are back in print because we believed that what ND has always done best is to value deep-digging longform serious music journalism. We want people to hold this in their hands, smell it, look at it across a room, spend time with it, come back to it. When we ask folks to spend $15 on this book, we want to give them something that’s worth their hard-earned money that they cannot get anywhere else – certainly not for free. We want people to experience and sit with these stories, not read them quickly then push them into a tweet. If you want to discuss something you’ve read in the ND journal, lend a friend your copy, or encourage them to buy their own. Pass something back and forth, hand to hand, face to face. This is how we honor our roots – the long chain of American music, the long chain of storytelling and reporting and valuing the place for stories in our lives. Not just our internet lives, but the lives we lead in our homes.
The world is weird. Here in the United States, we’ve just elected a president who ran not on facts and policies, but on shareable tweets and viral videos. We have hope that there is meat on that bone, that the repercussions of that decision will not be as dire as has been the discussion on the internet. And, as a music publication, we are in a unique position to rise above all that noise anyway, to focus on what we all have in common: not just the albums and artists we love, but the parts of our common humanity that are awakened by their music. With Cameron championing that mission online, we can have room to deepen the integrity of our print journal. To bring you stories that can ground us, heal us, help us to find our footing in a time when so much is unknown. Let’s not disengage from the world, but instead choose to confront it from a place of valuing and celebrating our shared roots.
That’s why here at ND we are excited about the year ahead and what we can do with our little ragtag bunch of writers, editors, web workers, and operations folks. We cannot wait to get started, and we hope you’ll join us. You can find us online right here, at nodepression.com, every day of the week, and get a hold of Cameron via email (cameron at nodepression dot com). And you can subscribe to our print journal at nodepression.com/subscribe. Our Winter issue – “Bluegrass Beyond” – is available for preorder now.