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Greeting inspires publication
When 30-year-old Columbia graduate student Daniel Duffy decided to publish his multi-faceted, new journalism-themed magazine, he immediately thought of the most basic human interaction there is: the handshake.
“I was trying to think of something that really encapsulated what I’m trying to do, which is give the working class a voice in journalism,” said Duffy, who is earning his master’s degree in fine art. “I was thinking about long-form interviews and getting to know people, and with each person that we meet, something we all have in common is the handshake. It’s what encapsulates human contact and meeting each other.”
With the symbol in mind, Handshake Media Project was born almost two months ago in an effort to fill a void in Chicago media. The magazine, which will exist in print and online, features long-form journalism—whether it’s experimental essays, interviews, video-based journalism or short fiction, according to Duffy. Using Kickstarter.com, Handshake Media raised $5,156 for startup costs and its first print run of 1,200 96-page, full color magazines. While the online site is expected to be completed on May 21, a launch party for the print magazine will be held at Schuba’s Tavern, 3159 N. Southport Ave., on June 21.
Duffy said though he’s a big fan of publications such as the Chicago Reader and Time Out Chicago Magazine, they don’t cover the kind of creative journalism he’d like to read. Studs Terkel’s novel “Working” inspired him to create a series of man-on-the-street video interviews, where average people talk about their jobs. This as well as incorporating long-form journalism in the Handshake Media Project is something he and his team value.
“We are an ADD society where people like to get their information in short little bursts, but some of the best answers and some of the best content are the second answers,” Duffy said. “They’re the moments that [you get] after people pause for a minute and think things through. When you give them more time, you get into what they really think and feel. The long-form has disappeared in magazines like Interview magazine.”
Because of his work at Schuba’s, Duffy said Handshake Media might have a musical bent at first. Artists like Austin-based band The Black Angels and Chicago-based musician Rob Lowe have agreed to be interviewed for the publication.
“We definitely plan on publishing emerging writers,” Duffy said. “But in the beginning, we’re trying to get some recognizable names in there.”
Handshake video editor Brad LaBree has been riding on his bike with a camera in his backpack and approaching people on the street for the Terkel-esque section of
“A lot of people who are approached on the street are very cautious these days. Even when I formally introduce myself and give them my business card they’re wary,” LaBree said. “It’s difficult to strike up a conversation, which is part of the project—how different people are and how different interactions can be.”
Since LaBree started, he’s interviewed a man who works as an auditor, a handyman and will be interviewing a piano-lounge singer soon. The value in hearing about people’s jobs, he said, stems from learning about human behavior. At Handshake, the motto is, “Celebrity means nothing. Small talk is boring. Extend your hand.”
“We don’t treat people who have success and notoriety any different than the average people,” LaBree said. “Celebrity is really exaggerated and doesn’t really matter to anyone. Really, people with good ideas are what’s important and that can be just
Kevin Kane, 30, who works as a project manager in Columbia’s Fiction Writing Department and as managing editor at Handshake, said part of Handshake’s appeal will be its wide scope and use of different mediums.
Their recent success with Kickstarter.com has allowed them to shift their focus from fundraising to finding quality content and advertisers, he said. Soon, they will start shopping the magazine around to local book stores, though they’re not limited to book retailers.
“We want to look at different venues—art supply stores, tattoo parlors or music shops,” Kane said. “Anywhere with a creative bent or where people with interest in the creative arts would go.”