Broken Hipster. Media Whore. Pencil Fight.
These are just a few of the hundreds of zines published around Portland.
Soon Portland State could join the zine-printing world, thanks to a proposal passed by the Publications Board April 8 that would establish an independent zine publishing center at PSU.
Using unsophisticated tools such as copy machines, staplers, typewriters and old printing presses, hundreds of Portlanders self-publish zines on every topic under the sun, from riding TriMet to long personal narratives about working in a porn store.
Through the establishment of zine-making resources like the Independent Publishing Resource Center (IPRC) and zine-friendly bookstores like Reading Frenzy and Powell’s City of Books, Portland has developed a reputation as a major zine breeding ground.
This August, Portland State will host the Portland Zine Symposium 2005, expected to attract over 1,000 zine aficionados from around the country.
IRPC staff member Jack Saturn said that the IPRC sees between 50 and 100 separate titles per year, most of which publish randomly. “No one really keeps a specific schedule,” he said.
The zines are self-distributed by their creators, sent through mail subscriptions, or sold at Reading Frenzy just downstairs from the center. Saturn says that zines cost about $1 to produce and sell at anywhere from 25 cents to more than $5.
Powell’s bookstore carries about fifty different zines at a time, more if space allows, buyer Kevin Sampsell said. About half are locally produced by individuals. The rest are purchased from Microcosm, a Portland-based zine distributor. Popular subject matter for zines include parenting, biking, feminism, music and comics.
Similar to other zine centers in Portland, the zine resource center proposal would offer a student organizer or manager for the center, a copy machine with network abilities, a training/orientation process which would include equipment training but also libel and copyright responsibility training, binding materials and office space.
The PSU Publications Board proposal was originally developed in part as a response to another proposal from Lew Church of the Progressive Student Union. Church sought funding from the board for The Agitator, a zine that Church said would give an alternative voice to students who are unsatisfied with the coverage from other student publications such as the Vanguard, the Rearguard and the Spectator.
Church obtained $5,000 from the Student Fee Committee for The Agitator, but the money was put in a reserve account under the stipulation that he must get approval from the Publications Board before he could receive the money.
Judson Randall, adviser and executive secretary for the board, though not a voting member, recommended that the board reject Church’s proposal because it would be inappropriate for the board to be the publisher of a publication issued by an individual rather than a group [ed. note: Randall is also publications adviser at PSU, which includes advising the Vanguard].
Church’s proposal was ultimately rejected by the Publications Board, but Vanguard editor-in-chief Christian Gaston, who sits on the board as a non-voting member, suggested the zine resource center as a compromise solution.
Gaston’s proposal would enable not only Church and the Progressive Student Union to publish as Randall notes, “whatever the hell they want … but do it responsibly,” but also any other PSU student who wanted a way to voice their opinions.
Though there’s no timeline or funds for the opening of the center yet as it is still in the planning stage, SFC chair Nicole Greco told Randall that, pending SFC approval, the money allocated for Church’s zine could be used for the center proposal.
The funds were allotted to Church with the provision that he submit an itemized budget, submit proof of approval from the Publications Board, along with a letter from the Student Activities and Leadership Programs advisor verifying the Progressive Student Union’s eligibility as a recognized student group. Since the Publications Board rejected the proposal, it may be possible to redirect the funds.
Lew Church, Crystal Elinski and Darris Mishler, who publish The Agitator, all declined to comment for this story, saying that they were not interested in commenting on the possible zine center at PSU. However, Church indicated that he plans to continue to publish The Agitator.
After it opens, the new zine center could become an important outlet for students, IPRC librarian Greg Beans noted, because “Ninety percent of media is owned by five or six corporations, and there are fewer and fewer places for people to express dissenting or unpopular opinions.”
Though there are several places in Portland such as the IPRC that students and other community members can self-publish, Beans thinks it will be beneficial to open another center at PSU. “At any university there’s a bubble, and there’s a certain safeness having [a zine center] at the university to give students a place to express themselves.”
-additional reporting by Treasure Porth and Matt Petrie