What a difference a decade makes. This time around, Real Change executive director Tim Harris has been flooded with applications from writers and editors with over 10 years of experience at daily newspapers. Thanks to one of the toughest job markets for Seattle journalists ever – not to mention Real Change’s own growth – Harris has no shortage of candidates to lead editorial operations at the paper. It seems many local journalists are eager to join an activist publication sold on the street by Seattle’s homeless population.
“This environment is bad for journalists but good for us,” Harris said. “The applicants we are attracting represent an opportunity for us to take the newspaper to the next level of professionalism.”
Harris is in the midst of the final round of interviews and plans to make a hiring decision soon. The new Real Change editor will replace Adam Hyla, who is leaving the paper after a decade to take a job as communications director at the Children’s Alliance.
The editor will join Real Change as the newspaper continues to grow, both in circulation and physical space. The newspaper moved from Belltown to larger digs in Pioneer Square in May.
Real Change needed to move because the office in Belltown could no longer accommodate 15 staff members and the increasing number of vendors, who now number about 350 each month. The vendors pay 35 cents a copy for the newspaper and then earn money by selling it for $1 apiece. Harris wanted quarters that would separate vendor services from newspaper production, and give everyone a bit of breathing room. A computer lab will allow for classes and training for vendors.
“The move was long overdue,” Harris said. “We no longer have the tension that comes from too many people in a packed space.”
The move proved more complicated than Harris had anticipated, as Pioneer Square community activists protested Real Change’s arrival. They asked the city to deny Real Change needed permits because they felt the neighborhood already played host to too many human service organizations. Harris pointed out that Real Change does not provide human services and never received complaints in Belltown.
In the end, law firm Davis Wright Tremaine took on Real Change’s case on a pro bono basis and convinced the Pioneer Square Community Association to drop the appeal. The matter finally reached resolution this month.
“The fight is very much done,” Harris said. “We’re moving on.”
Harris believes the new location and editor will help Real Change position itself as it continues to grow. The paper’s annual budget is now at $850,000, which comes largely from donations. Circulation has been rising by an average of 18 percent each year for the last four years, and is now at 18,000 a week.
Harris hopes to continue to grow Real Change’s reach by increasing online efforts. All of the top editor candidates bring web experience. Harris would like to see the paper add more audio, interviews, vendor blogging, and multimedia links to the web site.