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Life Arts    H2'ed 5/29/11

Celebrating 15 Years of Independent, Ad-Free YES! Magazine

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Being accountable to readers, not corporations and special interests. What a rarity, especially these days. Beyond your independence, you also have an incredibly positive message. Instead of dreading picking up a magazine for fear of the latest bad news lurking inside, it's actually fun to read YES! It's full of people doing good things and being kind to one another and our planet. Is that where the name came from? 

That's right, Joan,  we love sharing good news, especially in a time when so many people are deeply discouraged. When we do, we are saying "Yes!" to the possibility for change and the extraordinary work so many are doing to bring it about.

But this isn't feel-good fluff.

If we want to know how to take on the really big challenges, or the small ones in our own back yard, it's smart to find out what works. And it makes sense to en-courage people -- to offer the recognition the helps people find the courage to take a stand or risk a new innovation.

All too often, progressives focus on flaws and failures -- our own and other peoples'. At YES!, we look for the possibility embedded even in difficult times. We want to celebrate people taking action and especially celebrate and understand successes. That helps energize everyone.

Here are a couple of examples from the Spring 2011 issue of YES! Colin Beavan, self-described "No Impact Man," tells readers how he went from a regular guy who cares about the environment, to a media phenomenon -- someone who found a way to live for a year in New York City without having an impact on the environment. Joel Salatin explains how his farm animals are integral to the health of his whole farm ecosystem -- and how the animals live good lives. And Jane Goodall offers the top ten things we can all do to help animals survive and thrive.

In the last year, we've also done themes on community resilience (how to work together to be ready for natural disasters, economic breakdown, or whatever may come), the changing American family, water--how to protect it from privatization and pollution, and "America: The Remix" about our changing racial and cultural identity as a nation.

So, as you suggest, we're all about saying YES! to what ordinary people are doing to make their communities, homes, work-places, and societies more just, compassionate, and sustainable. You could think of it as spreading the love "

Where do you get your writers? Do you grow them yourselves? A journalist who has been writing in/for the mainstream press would probably need a major reorientation to reflect the positive prism that YES! utilizes.   

Some of our writers are staff and interns. We also turn to people who are doing substantial research in an area we're covering or who are leading edge activists. That allows us to get the stories of change early, as those changes are unfolding. Months, or more often, years later, you'll find similar stories in the mainstream press.

And yes, we do have mainstream free-lance journalists write stories for us about innovations that are changing lives and restoring ecosystem. And it doesn't really take a reorientation. Like other responsible media outlets, we want to produce accurate, well-crafted articles, blogs, columns, etc. The difference might be in the story choices and the framing. We highlight the grassroots leaders that the mainstream press ignores. We feature successes, and what others can learn from those successes, not only where things are falling apart. And we especially seek out the innovations that can change our world from one that is headed for ecological and social disasters to one built on a foundation of respect for all life.

Summer 2011 Issue

I noticed that you also work to engage students. For instance,  you very recently had a national writing project going on. What's that all about?

The essay contests are a way to support teachers in engaging their students in ways that spark their imagination about possibilities for their own lives and for a better world. We provide them with an article and a provocative question, then select a winning essay from among those submitted by the students to post on our website. The author of the original article responds to the student essay. You can find a list of the essay topics here .

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Joan Brunwasser is a co-founder of Citizens for Election Reform (CER) which since 2005 existed for the sole purpose of raising the public awareness of the critical need for election reform. Our goal: to restore fair, accurate, transparent, secure elections where votes are cast in private and counted in public. Because the problems with electronic (computerized) voting systems include a lack of (more...)

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