Six years ago, on January 6, 2006, I launched SMITH Magazine. It was about time.
For three years prior, I wandered in the media desert, looking for funding or a fancy publishing partner. I got meetings because I had been working in magazines for a while and had a prototype created by legendary art director Robert Priest (whose SMITH logo still graces these pages today). I preached the gospel of what I called, “A new kind of magazine, a print/web hybrid that would be written by everyone and edited by professionals.” And then I was shown the door.
What to do? It was time to stop looking up and start looking around, as well as inward. My co-founder was my old college buddy, Tim Barkow, who frequently reminded me that we’d never create something new if we attempted to do so the old way, with the old rules. Inventive independent media makers like Dave Eggers, Shoshana Berger, Deanna Brown, and Lisa Haines all said the same thing: just do it, dude. And so we did. On January 6, 2006, National Smith Day (a day which existed already in honor of John Smith, one of the early Jamestown, Va., settlers, and/or 19th century mountaineer Jedediah Smith), we launched SMITH online.
I handled the content and editing. Tim programmed and designed the site from scratch with the help of Wordpress, the platform we still use. Our friend, Alex Hart, gave us free server space, because he’s the kind of guy who has server space. Lisa guided as we we started to turn a passion into a viable business proposition. Rachel Fershleiser later joined and became my incredible Six-Word Memoir co-editor. Jeff Newelt, aka JAHFurry, brought comics to SMITH, further expanding the ways we could tell stories here. Along the way, to crib from one six-worder I love, “Many hands have kept us afloat.” *
In previous posts I recount our origin and our mission, but the short story is that SMITH was inspired by my grandfather, a small-town pharmacist who knew everyone else’s story but was notably shy when discussing his own. Read more »