At South Sound magazine, our main focus always has been to feature stories about restaurants, homes, gardens, fashion, recipes and travel. Essentially, we strive to give our readers information on ways we feel help improve upon the already wonderful experience that is life in the Pacific Northwest.
So when we published in our August-September issue an in-depth special report on the state of family homelessness in one of those great spots–Pierce County, Washington–it definitely was a departure from our norm.
And it turned out to be a wonderful thing.
Our team of journalists, led by NAACP Image Award-winning author Jeff Burlingame, took more than a year to investigate and write the series of articles that appeared in our August/September issue of South Sound magazine and on our website.
When the comprehensive project came together–stories, graphs, photos and online bonus content that included an original song by Jackie Mitchell and an accompanying music video–it ended up taking up almost 20 percent of the real estate in our magazine. There was no doubt: this needed to be our cover story.
What is Family Homelessness? from Andrew Horton on Vimeo.
We chose a cover image that was intriguing, beautiful and symbolic. It was the underside of the Narrows bridges that connect Tacoma to the Gig Harbor and the Key peninsula, areas where services are not as easy to obtain as they are in the more metropolitan parts of Pierce County. The image paired well with our cover lines: “Bridging the Gap: Exploring the complex issue of family homelessness in Pierce County.”
We wondered how the magazine would be received once it hit homes, newsstands and our website. Our readership, after all, was more used to covers of stunning homes and luscious food. Immediately, we received notes, emails, Twitter mentions, Facebook likes and phone calls from people thanking us for the thoughtful coverage. Some called to see how they could help. Others contacted us because they had stories to share. Just one person, a nice, older-sounding woman, called to say she didn’t want to read about the homeless in South Sound magazine. It was too depressing, she said. You can’t please everyone.
One thing was clear: The project in our magazine sparked conversation. And our hope is that our readership, armed with new awareness of the problem of family homelessness in our community, will take the first step toward change.
The project will continue to have a presence on our website for a long time. You can find it here. We hope the conversations will continue and we plan to write similar stories in the future.