When I founded Belt Publishing in 2013, I lived in Ohio, the famously mighty swing state with the power to decide elections (“as goes Ohio, so goes the nation”), which at that time was blue. But electoral politics was not the motivating factor behind my decision to launch an online magazine and small press dedicated to the post-industrial Midwest. I did so simply because, amazingly, no one else had. There were so few publications or presses telling the stories of this diverse, suffering, recovering, fascinating region. I wanted to fill that gap. So for the past three years, Belt has published in-depth features about NAFTA and manufacturing, stories encouraging refugees to resettle here, about race and redlining, population loss, the white working class — all those hot-button election issues that everybody suddenly can’t stop talking about. We have also published hundreds of first-person essays about living in the Rust Belt, a region marked by foreclosures and vacancy and unemployment, including “Rust Belt Heroin Chic,” published in our Pittsburgh Anthology; “The Kidnapped Children of Detroit,” from our Detroit Anthology; and “A Girl’s Youngstown,” from our Youngstown Anthology. We have been here all along. And yet even we did not predict Trump’s win.
There were so few publications or presses telling the stories of this diverse, suffering, recovering, fascinating region. I wanted to fill that gap.
While this narrative of the coastal media mea culpa is to a certain extent true and deserved—mainly, I find it inaccurate, passive, and self-serving.
If you click on clickbait, then you likely skip that story about economic struggle. That does not mean those stories are not out there.
The New York Times and The Washington Post have both reported record numbers of subscribers since the election ended. But local publications need those subscribers, too. You cannot have robust, comprehensive journalism if you are not willing to pay for it. I am, of course, not saying anything new here: Still, chances are this article will be retweeted by far more people than those who will read it entirely, not to mention those who will take out their wallets. This is not a plea to give; it’s simply descriptive of current patterns of online consumption.
You cannot have robust, comprehensive journalism if you are not willing to pay for it.
We are small, and struggle to find a viable business model...But we exist, telling the stories of people who live here, hoping for the economic recovery that you folks on the coasts have had over the past eight years.