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April 2nd, 2003 Chris Lydgate | News Stories
 

Taking Back the Street

     
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Street Roots, the scrappy Portland tabloid written, produced and sold primarily by homeless people, has undergone a facelift by a top newspaper designer and is speeding up its publication schedule to twice a month.

"Things are happening fast these days," says news editor Joanne Zuhl. "Going to twice a month allows us to better respond to the news."

Street Roots organizers say breaking away from its monthly schedule will allow more news features, more poetry--and more money for its 50-plus homeless vendors, who hawk 12,000 to 14,000 copies every month at a dollar a copy, earning 75 cents from each sale.

"Seventy-five percent of our papers are sold in the first two weeks," says creative director Israel Bayer. "We hope that going bimonthly will help vendors get steady income."

For its new look, the paper recruited Wilsonville designer Tim Harrower, who oversaw the redesign of The Oregonian's Living section in 1995 and created and wrote one of its most popular columns, The Edge. Harrower redesigned Street Roots free of charge.

Despite its new look, organizers say Street Roots remains dedicated to its original homegrown nonprofit ethic. "We are striving to become a more attractive and reader-friendly publication," says Bayer. "We are balancing that with a strong commitment to maintain contributions from the street."

A recent visit to the paper's offices at 1231 SW Morrison St. reinforced that notion, as two vendors taking shelter from the blustery weather could be seen dozing on a couch. "Sometimes we function as a sort of makeshift drop-in center," Zuhl shrugged.

 
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