Welcome to the diary of our creative process for issue 020 of GOOD. We hope you'll want to collaborate with us in this open process.Continuning the tradition we started last issue, we want to enlist your help to make sure that the next issue of GOOD—The New Orleans issue—is as much in tune with your needs, wants, and desires as possible. Our hope is that by sharing the ideas we've come across so far, and soliciting new input from all of you, the issue we end up with will be the best and most authentic expression of our community.
The way we usually start is by jotting down some ideas for the mission of this particular issue. Sometimes it coheres nicely into a succient statement of purposes, other times it's a scattershot, and we're often left with a series of questions that we plan on answering as story ideas start rolling in. Deputy editor Morgan Clendaniel took a stab and came up with this:
...to which associate editor Patrick James added:
What we're looking at with New Orleans is a chance for an American city to, in many ways, start anew. Lots of people have interesting ideas about urban design, city government, local and neighborhood initiatives, but its often hard to superimpose these on an already existing social and physical infrastructure. With New Orleans, people had the chance to, in many respects, rebuild a city from the ground up, incorporating both the strong local history and tradition, but also with more freedom to try new ideas. So, in that sense the last five years of the city have been like a laboratory of projects and ideas; and we can look at what has worked, and what hasn't, while also paying homage to one of America's most interesting cultural landmarks. I think Katrina exists only in the background—it happened, it was really bad, and it was mishandled, but now we're celebrating the people who are trying to pick up the pieces and doing so in interesting ways, and in ways that can be used in other cities around the country and the world. In the same way, New Orleans as a place isn't the point—this isn't a travel issue—it's the people who are, in a rather impressive American-dream way, attempting to shrug off incredibly hardship and build something better, something we and our readers can hopefully all learn from.
Creative director Casey Caplowe contributed these thoughts:
The point is definitely about the new growth, the rebuilding, the shrugging off of incredible hardship, and I think it's made all the stronger by taking into account the (racial, political, cultural, historical) conflicts that have shaped the place's continually evolving culture.
And this absurd collage:
When Katrina hit, all eyes turned toward New Orleans. It was like a terrible wound had been exposed in this country. What is amazing however is how they city has manage to maintain our attention since then—as it copes, reimagines and rebuilds itself, it has never fallen too far from our nation's interest or consciousness. I think a big part of this is the energy and creativity that people have brought to solving the problems of that city. Both people from outside, old-timers, and a new crew of people who sought it out for the possibility and freedom it represented after its disaster.
We've already covered the 9th Ward Field of Dreams, and run a picture show about Operation Paydirt. The Great Basket Drop has gotten some love, as has New Orleans entrepreneur week. Our Killscreen columnist did a post on New Orleans as fictional space. And here's some more stuff we've tagged with "New Orleans."
has been pitched a number of times, as has Naked Pizza. Robbie Vitrano and The Trumpet Group seems to be on a lot of people's minds, along with Icehouse NOLA, a hotbeds for young entrepreneurs in the city. NOLA 180 is a charter school management organization that's been trying to turn around failed New Orleans schools. Banksy's done some stuff down there. KK Projects is doing awesome, large-scale installation art around the city.
People we've heard we should be talking to: Harry Shearer, Dan Baum, Dave Eggers, Rick Bragg (and Nicholas Cage? Brad Pitt?). Jim Bernazzani, FBI Special Agent, came back to New Orleans in 2005 to end corruption in the city. Stacey James Danner and Lea Keal from Sustainable Environmental Enterprises. Eric Lolis Elie—local writer, author, and technical advisor to David Simon's Treme. John Besh. Sean Cummings—patron and creator of Reinventing the Crescent, a real estate developer and conveynor of the hip, forward thinking entrepreneurs. Kirsha Kaechele, an art entrepreneur who bought several abandoned houses in an inner city neighborhood and turned them into alternative art spaces and community gardens. Patrick Strange, Managing Editor of Filter, moved to Los Angeles from New Orleans after Katrina; He is the editor of Constance, an art and literature journal that imagines the future of New Orleans in all of its varied possibilities
PSFK has done a ton of great New Orleans coverage. The New Orleans 100 from All Day Buffet is a wealth of information.
We like the idea of looking at the New Orleans diaspora—the people who left after Katrina and never came back, but hold on to the idea of the city. There's a climate change story to be written about adapting to new environmental realities. We'll probably have to say something about Treme (but not too much). And it might be nice to engage the GOOD community in an actual boots on the ground project in the Big Easy that marks the release of the issue, or serves as a curtain raiser.
Someone told us that the town’s unofficial motto and pervading gestalt is Laissez les bons temps rouler (Let the good times roll). Someone else schooled us on Katrina as a dirty word:
And Willie Mae's Scotch House apparently has great fried chicken.
NEVER refer to "Katrina" as this perpetuates the illusion that the flooding of New Orleans was related to a "natural" event. It was not. It was a failure of the Federal Levee Protection system. That is why we prefer to speak of the Federal Flood or the New Orleans Flood. If your magazine can understand the difference and help communicate that important difference to its readers, that will be a help to the community.
So, that's a sampling of what we've collected. What can you add to our collective brainstorm?