As one of only about 25,000 people worldwide paying to read Slate, I was annoyed to hear the site's going free. My annoyance doesn't make sense: I can get the exact same service I was getting before (the magazine, daily e-mail content, print-out version, access to the archives) for the same price, or get just the weekly contents for free. But knowing that everyone else can read Slate for free makes the extra services seem less valuable.
Charging subscription fees for a web magazine was as silly when Slate first started as it is today. Normal magazines that charge for subscriptions are for sale on newsstands, at bookstores, at the grocery store, and so on. Potential subscribers see the magazines every day, can pick them up and read them without paying a dime, or take an issue home and decide whether or not to subscribe. Slate had no such advantage. Over the year it was subscription-only, Slate disappeared from view in the culture at large. At the same time, Slate pulled itself head and shoulders above the web zine competition, as Salon (which has twice Slate's readership) grew more ridiculous, and hip commentary zines like Feed and Suck stayed small in scope and content. The best major web-only magazine was the least well-read.
With new publisher Scott Moore and a new strategy (free content, paid advertising--just like any successful alternative weekly in the nation), Slate should shrug off its perceived irrelevance. So I should be pleased. But then again, it's just more competition for me in Randy Cohen's addictive News Quiz, so I'm pissed.--Eric Fredericksen
ELLIOTT BAY WATCH
Developer Rick Scher seems to be slowly cobbling together a series of "independent" chain stores. A few years ago, he purchased the Honey Bear, a bakery that was a hangout for aging hippies, yuppified it and opened a few more locations. Earlier this year, he started Third Place, a massive bookstore in Bellevue Crossroads marketed on new age principles of community building. And now he's buying up Elliott Bay Books with plans to make it more like Third Place, with community spaces and a possible Honey Bear bakery. Elliott Bay started in an economic downtime for Seattle in the '70s, when a lot of small alternative presses, newspapers, and stores like Red and Black Books and Left Bank Books opened. "At that time, people weren't opening businesses with hopes of going public with stock options and expanding," said Rick Simonson, a buyer for Elliott Bay for the last 24 years. "There was a different impetus, it was more a labor of love." No sizable business in Seattle right now is run on love.--Samantha M. Shapiro
WILL "EQUALITY BEGINS AT HOME" GET OFF THE GROUND?
"There's so much activity in state legislatures on gay and lesbian issues," said Urvashi Vaid of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Policy Institute. "But the gay and lesbian movement is incredibly weak at the state level." To energize state activists, Vaid conceived of a march on all 50 state capitals. "We are everywhere, and we could do an action that demonstrated that."
Coordinating marches on all 50 states proved too daunting, and Vaid's idea morphed into Equality Begins at Home, or EBaH, "The First Ever National Week of Action for GLBT Equality." EBaH is scheduled for the week of March 21-27, and gay and lesbian activists in all 50 states are planning lobby days, rallies, and marches.
"You're going to see stuff happening in Mississippi and Alabama," said Vaid, "Kentucky and Missouri. Maine and Montana."
But will we see anything in Washington state?
"There isn't a large group of people getting it together," said City Councilmember Tina Podlodowski, a member of NGLTF's board, "but they're definitely focused." Most of the people working on Washington state's EBaH actions came from what's left of Equality Washington, with Seattle's PFLAG chapter co-sponsoring events, and the odd Freedom Socialist activist/albatross attending meetings. A PFLAG press release promises a lobby day in Olympia March 22, Safe Schools vigils in various cities (except Seattle, where nothing is planned), and undefined "religious community involvement."
According to Podlodowski, one of the primary goals of EBaH is to focus media attention on gay and lesbian issues. But these anemic-sounding actions won't draw much in the way of media attention, which may be for the best: the last gay lobby day and rally in Olympia had to be canceled when no one showed up.--Dan Savage