Former reporter with The Columbian newspaper, Michael Andersen, is set to launch Portland Afoot, a publication that will cover “low-car life” in Portland. Billed as “PDX’s 10-minute newsmagazine on buses, bikes and low-car life,” Andersen hopes his new endeavor will capture Portland’s growing appetite for news and information about how to live well without owning a car (or by using them less).
I sat down with Andersen earlier this week to learn more.
Andersen, 28, had covered the city government beat at The Columbian for 3.5 years before deciding to jump ship and start something new. No stranger to the upheaval in the news business, Andersen told me “the only way we’ll sustain journalism is by doing experiments like this.”
The distribution plan for Portland Afoot is good old-fashioned U.S. Mail. People can sign up at PortlandAfoot.org or find Andersen’s table at local events. He’ll also have a companion wiki that will feature entries on the people, agencies, and issues behind the stories.
“There’s a feeling of helplessness when you get on a bus. You know the driver, but they have no power… I’ve been describing it as the Consumer Reports of TriMet.”
— Michael Andersen, editor and publisher of Portland Afoot
Subscription to Portland Afoot will be about $10 per year and the magazine — a tri-folded, 11 x 17-inch paper — will ship once a month. Andersen says his target audience are the 75,000 Portland households that have either no car or few cars than workers (according to the U.S. Census). “It’s about a third of the city’s households, and it almost certainly includes most of TriMet’s 34,000 or so commuters.”
As for coverage, Andersen plans to focus Afoot primarily on transit use and TriMet in general. Andersen feels TriMet lacks accountability and that many people want to have a larger voice in their transit service:
“There’s a feeling of helplessness when you get on a bus. You know the driver, but they have no power. A lot of people say they don’t know how to act, who to blame, or what to do about big issues like service cuts… I’ve been describing it as the Consumer Reports of TriMet.”
Andersen will also cover biking and walking issues, especially how they interact with transit use. Each issue will have one feature story with original reporting and there will be a host of other sections including a news blotter and lighter stories. One example he shared was a story about five couples who met on the bus. He’ll also break daily news and share links on his @mikeonfoot twitter feed.
Andersen is sharp; a real professional. His heart is also into the activism that is unavoidable when dealing with these issues (although he says he’s approaching this as a journalist first). One thing is certain, the timing for this is good. It was about a year ago that I published a story titled, Portland is primed for a low-car diet, and while City Council hasn’t done anything bold for carfree spaces since then, there is definitely a growing number of people who are re-considering the dominant role cars play in their lives.
Andersen will have the inaugural issue available by the end of April. Click over to PortlandAfoot.org to get on the mailing list.