Jump back to New York City, cerca the 1800s. Commercialization and industrialization has begun transforming the nation, and along with it, the newspaper industry. Subscriptions and political patronage has given way to a new system of selling papers – a street system. Newsboys now fill the alleyways with with papers in the air and “Extra, extra!” at the top of their lungs.
Fast forward a few decades. Street newspapers are making a comeback, though this time not with the sensationalized content that characterized the papers of the 1800s. These small, nonprofit newspapers are taking to the streets via a group of people whom American society has largely forgotten about – the homeless.
The North American Street Newspaper Association represents 31 street newspapers that work with more than 1,5000 individuals experiencing homelessness and poverty. These people gain immediate income through the sales of the newspapers every month, and the papers cumulatively have a circulation of 300,000.
“Street newspapers play a vital role in stabilizing urban street corners through building self-confidence and self-worth among a population who lives without shelter. Alone, each street newspaper acts in a vacuum. Together, we make up a movement to change the way people relate and respond to homelessness and poverty locally, regionally and globally.”
Through selling newspapers on street corners, the general public receives a knowledge that goes beyond the paper they are buying. They begin to know, “the individual on the corner, not as a bum or a drug addict, but as Joe or Jane, and recognizes that individuals on the streets are no different than themselves.”
This idea is fascinating to me. It’s a kind of social development journalism, and I hope to see it develop across America.