Thursday, March 19, 2009

Stranger seattle’s hits a readers and nerve

Do not despair.

You don't have to leave.

These words were no doubt the equivalent of a warm hug to embattled Democrats after this month's presidential election. They appeared, along with many, many more words of encouragement on the Nov. 11 cover of The Stranger.

Seattle's stranger
And requests for the issue are still pouring into the free weekly's offices.

Kevin Shurtluff, circulation manager at The Stranger, says he's never seen anything like this in his seven years with the Seattle publication (in both delivery and circulation departments).

"It gave people something to rally around," said Shurtluff, who wasn't expecting this sort of response. "A lot of people were feeling glum."

With a circulation of 95,000 issues per week, The Stranger generally has about 5 percent of its papers left over each week. The Nov. 11 issue's rate of return was somewhere between 2-3 percent. But looking at the incoming requests -- hovering somewhere around 500 from all over the country -- those returns might have been premature.

A week after drivers picked up any remaining issues from boxes and store locations, the calls started coming in.

"We paid a visit to The Stranger recycling bin and grabbed up all the copies we had there," said Shurtluff. Then it was time to scrounge for any missed copies lying around at coffee shops and bars.

"We provided 100 papers to someone involved with the Democratic Party in Alaska who wanted to bring papers back up for people there. And people wanted multiple copies for people to give their families."

And it's not just extra issues of the paper.

"People want T-shirts, people want posters ... we're not in the T-shirt business," says Stranger editor Dan Savage. But he understands the appeal of the issue.

"The cover is tough-minded. We're trying to put the fight back into people," he said.

"It was really honest. It still had the attitude that we weren't transformed overnight into a weeping bag of slop," said Savage, who said that The Stranger's staff was dismayed at Kerry's loss.

"We were all traumatized by the realization on Nov. 3 and the sense of estrangement from our own country and countrymen and we poured our hearts into this issue."

In processing what all that meant, he said the staff produced an issue that seemed to touch a nerve with their readers.

Savage said he wrote a paragraph summing up the editorial content of the issue and The Stranger's art director, Corianton Hale, chose to put each sentence into a colored bar. The bars are usually used to highlight splashy text on the weekly's cover. But, Hale, says Savage, raised them up, filling up the cover and elevating the importance of each sentence.

"People really responded to it," said Savage, adding that he was surprised to watch people ripping the covers off the issue. "I saw this guy and he looked at it and started to sob."

By the way, don't bother asking for additional copies at this point. What they have, they're keeping for their own archives.

"We only have, like, 20 copies of that issue left," said Savage. "And they're under my desk."


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