As my wife read out the headline to me that Urbanite was going out of business, I thought “What?!”. It seemed almost incomprehensible. Sure, I knew that print magazines were needing to reinvent themselves, find other business models, quit the paper routes and go digital. I intellectually understood that the publishing industry has been experiencing a turbulent period – it was a huge deal when the New York Times started reigning in their free content. But it’s different when it’s someone you know, when it isn’t close to home, but in your home. There’s an emotional component that needs to accept the reality, and I was caught off guard. Then again, the closer someone is to us, the more difficult it can be to accept their impending absence in our life.
People have occasionally asked me what I love about Baltimore, and one of the first things I always mentioned was Urbanite. I was proud of the magazine which was occasionally featured in the Utne Reader. I was inspired by the fact that they would bring people together from different sectors to collaborate on a project. I loved that they invited the reader to become a part of the magazine – not just via letters to the editor – but with the “What You’re Writing” section, which has featured some of the most amazing non-fiction pieces I’ve read. I love that Urbanite served as catalyst for ideas to combat social issues, such as soliciting designs and proposals to address food deserts. They didn’t just write about the community. They were a part of it.
It was two months after my wife and I got married when my parents told me they were getting divorced. It was two weeks after I started Collaborator Magazine when I read that Urbanite was closing its doors. When you embark on a journey that’s new for you, it is intuitive to look to those who have – in your mind – successfully gone that way before. You look to them for advice, but also at them for example. And then when the example you thought was such a success evaporates right in front of you, it can make taking those first steps of your own all the more frightening. Sure there is hard work involved in any major undertaking, but we want to believe it will be a success. “If others can do it, so can I.” But when presented with a slap of reality at the very onset, it can leave you with some significant doubts. At the same time, it is important to remember that every path is different. As unique individuals in a constantly evolving social and economic reality, there is no way to precisely replicate a success or a failure – there are simply too many variables with which to consider and contend. The benefit of seeing a reality as it is, rather than as we imagine, is that we are afforded the opportunity to move forward with clear and open eyes. We can establish new bases for our relationships, new models for business. It spurs imperative creativity and demands rigorous rationality. To say “Others only made it this far. I’ll try further.” requires much more of us. But in the end, we honor those before us and do our part to advance the social weal.
As I launch Collaborator, I have high hopes for it. I see the impact and community Urbanite fostered and I anticipate that there will be many components inspired by its work that I implement in my own magazine. To all of those at Urbanite, I wish you well and extend the utmost appreciation for all your contributions to Baltimore. Great job!