Creator of ‘Found’ magazine bringing the ruckus

By CiaraShook

The Student Programming Board will bring Davy Rothbart,  originator of Found magazine, to campus Nov. 4, where Rothbart will read from a stack of found notes.

Found is a collection of notes and interpretations compiled into a magazine and released every year out of Ann Arbor, Mich. Rothbart said that Found is much in the same genre as the PostSecret blog created by Frank Warren, or radio show “This American Life.”

“My mom says it’s like people-watching on paper,” said Rothbart, 34. “It really gives you insight into other people’s lives. It’s natural to be curious about those kinds of things because we’re surrounded by strangers all the time.”

Tiffany Young, junior marketing communications major and public relations representative for the Student Programming Board, saw Rothbart in Houston during the summer where he read his favorite finds.

“They are beautiful letters that never reached the person it was intended for,” Young said. “It was very entertaining and it’s one of those things where the way he engages with his audience is something I felt that Columbia students would be interested in.”

Rothbart said he is especially excited to visit Columbia because he had friends who were Columbia students when he lived in Chicago.

“Rob Dorrin, who designed the Found logo, was a Columbia student, as were a bunch of my roommates and friends,” Rothbart said. “It seemed like it would be really fun to visit Columbia and do an event there.”

Rothbart said the idea for Found came a few years ago when he was living in Chicago and found a note on his windshield one evening.

“It was addressed to ‘Mario,’” Rothbart said. “It said ‘I [explicative] hate you, you said you had to work, then why is your car here at her place. You [explicative] lied. I hate you, I hate you,’ signed,  ‘Amber,’ then, ‘P.S. page me later.’ She’s angry and upset with him, but still hopeful and in love, and of course it wasn’t even Mario’s car, it was my car.”

When Rothbart told friends his story, they shared with him similar occurrences and the notes they had kept with them.

“It was stunning to me because I loved this found stuff, but I never would have guessed that so many other people shared my fascination with these scraps of paper, these glimpses into other people’s lives,” Rothbart said. “It seemed like a shame to me that only the people who [walked] through their kitchen would see those amazing found notes.”

Rothbart began collecting found notes and compiling them into a magazine. He had planned to make 50 copies at a Kinko’s, but the clerk really liked what Rothbart was doing and insisted on printing 800 copies.

Rothbart had about 700 remaining copies when he left Chicago for several weeks. When he returned, he noticed they were gone.

“I figured [former roommate] Tim either threw them out or put them in the basement, where they’d be ruined,” Rothbart said. “[Tim] said, ‘So many people were coming to buy one copy or five for their friends.’ I said, ‘I guess we gotta print more.’”

Since then, Rothbart has printed a magazine each year. He receives about 10 Found submissions each week from around the country.

Rothbart tours each year doing readings  from notes that span from hilarious to heartbreaking.

“‘Reading’ sounds menacing; I do kind of a rowdy, entertaining show,” Rothbart said.

Jamie Gooden, junior arts, entertainment and media management major, said she is especially excited about Rothbart’s appearance, because Rothbart is from her hometown of Ann Arbor.

Gooden described Rothbart as a hometown hero who is succeeding in doing what he always wanted.

“He had this idea and he just ran with it and did it [in] a very DIY type of atmosphere,” Gooden said. “There are a lot of kids at Columbia trying to do that; seeing somebody that did that would be really great encouragement for them.”

Rothbart will be at The Loft,  on the fourth floor of the 916 S. Wabash Ave. Building on Nov. 4 at 7 p.m.