This week at Midnight Hour convenes a new series uncovering the history of the Independent through interviews with staff, alumni and quests through the archives. We begin with perspectives from current contributor Dayna Tortorici.
Midnight Hour: As far as you know, how did the Indy begin?
Dayna: The Indy started in 1989, I believe out of a desire to have an alternative community newspaper to the Brown Daily Herald that would cover campus issues and news stories around college hill--including RISD, which went more or less uncovered by the the Brown Daily Herald. It looked much less like a 'zine and more like a tabloid newspaper back then, with big headlines and text on the cover. I think in time it evolved to include more long-form journalism, cultural critique, reflection, and space for art and design, but that it was once a straight-up paper.
Midnight Hour: How did you first become involved?
Dayna: I contributed a few illustrations to the Indy my freshman year, in 2008. That year the majority of the staff was graduating, and so some seniors---Chloe Malle, Aaron Cutler, and Max Dunfey especially---encouraged me to apply for an editorial position. It was an exciting time to join, a real sea change, since with a completely new staff the Indy would have a lot of room to reinvent itself and decide what kind of paper it wanted to be.
Midnight Hour: How did you relate to the Indy’s mission?
Dayna: By the time I joined the Indy it already had a reputation as a sassy, theory- heavy, punk-inflected design-zine of a paper, and I was more interested in contributing to a weekly campus publication with as much freedom and aesthetic and intellectual inclinations as the Indy had than say, the BDH or a campus lit mag. I wanted to do long-form writing, cultural criticism, and to reflect on topics that didn't necessarily have a really hard "news peg" (that still wasn't drossy, fluffy "magazine writing" or "lifestyle writing"). I saw a place for that at the Indy.
I also recognized the Indy as a community, a place for like-minded people to gather around a thing they cared about and produce it collectively. I was the Managing Editor in the fall of 2009 (the 20th anniversary) with Simone Landon and Katie Okamoto---I think the second-ever all-female-led semester of the paper, after Audrey Van Maluski, Emily Segal, and Rachel Blatt my first semester on the paper the fall before---and one of my biggest priorities that semester was cultivating a strong and friendly work environment. In semesters past, especially in the notorious "boys club" years of the Indy, a few years before that I'd heard about, much of the paper's productive energy ran on intimidation. Katie, Simone and I figured that people would produce better work, and have a better time of it, if their accountability stemmed not from fear but from a sense of camaraderie. And I think for the most part we were right. The Indy is much more a "family" in my past four years at Brown than I imagine it has been in the past---though perhaps that's not a fair claim to make.
Also, to touch upon the all-female thing again: I think it was really exciting for me to work on a campus paper that had such a strong female and/or feminist presence. I think that this is actually one of the under-articulated strengths of the Indy and its mission, if the paper's voice is ultimately to represent ideas and voices that go unheard in other journalistic contexts.