PAPERBOY: Slow-Jamming The Alt-Weeklies

paperboyartthumbnail.jpgBY DAVE ALLEN Like time, news waits for no man. Keeping up with the funny papers has always been an all-day job, even in the pre-Internets era. These days, however, it’s a two-man job. That’s right, these days you need someone to do your reading for you, or risk falling hopelessly behind and, as a result, increasing your chances of dying lonely and somewhat bitter. That’s why every week PAPERBOY does your alt-weekly reading for you. We pore over those time-consuming cover stories and give you the takeaway, suss out the cover art, warn you off the ink-wasters and steer you towards the gooey center. Why? Because we love you!

CP: Those canvassers! Those people I try to avoid by pretending to receive a phone call or feigning interest in a book! Man, I’ve wondered about them — why they’re here, where the money goes, the whole deal — ever since I moved to the city. Even when I was unemployed, I never gave working for one of these outfits a second thought — better to annoy people on the Internet than in person, amiright? From the look of Isaiah Thompson’s piece, it was a good non-decision:

In the summer, canvassing operations balloon. Makeshift field offices — often consisting of little more than a few tables, a few telephones and a few motivational or instructional posters — go up in small, rented cp_2010-08-12.jpgspaces. And on college campuses, in coffee shops and all over the Internet, the ads go up and the recruiters wait, like bears before the trout run, for the calls.

The calls invariably come. Most companies, like GCI, advertise a weekly salary of between $300 and $500. Not bad, considering the economy. But it’s the cause that gives the work extra appeal. It appealed, certainly, to Kathy Seufert, 19 years old, attending Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y., and in need of a job last summer. Seufert had helped with a get-out-the-vote campaign before, and liked that work. When she saw an ad for a GCI job in Philadelphia involving “community outreach,” she applied — and was offered a job over the phone.

In retrospect, she probably should have asked more questions.

Her interviewers had mentioned some fundraising — and that was fine — but Seufert had come away picturing an organizing position. “So I show up at work the first day, and I was very surprised to find I’d be an all-day, everyday canvasser,” she says. The “community outreach” she’d signed up for, she discovered, would consist almost entirely of door-to-door fundraising, all summer long. She was one of many, part of a huge wave of new recruits, hired to go door-to-door for Amnesty International.

The tales of meeting quotas, facing down ultimatums, and non-white canvassers getting the cold shoulder in the ‘burbs are harrowing, but I think Thompson strikes the right tone of combining serious inquiry with a measure of sympathy. The knowledge of the organizations and the sense of canvassers as small cogs in a big machine are what really hit home.

PW: First off, big ups to PW for 20 years of Concerts in the Park. And based on the solid representation of the Philly scene in the Music Issue, I have to hope for 20 more. It’s not just to allow the seven acts they highlight to appear on the Rittenhouse stage; I’m thinking of countless other Philly acts who will inevitability play shows with them, crash on their floors, and follow in their images. From Scott Pryor’s American history tropes to Chiddy Bang’s nascent, infectious hip-hop, PW admirably weaves together the strains of the city’s music scene. This closing bit, from the spot on Birdie Busch, captures the up-from-nothing, passion-over-polish style that Philly does so well:

081110pwcoverv.jpgBirdie laughs when she recalls getting shy for a split second early on when she first started playing with trained musicians. “I thought, ‘Oh my god, I didn’t go to music school,’” she says. She got over it. “To me, that’s what rock ’n’ roll is.”

The Bird spreads the word about finding and doing your own thing. A couple years ago, she guest taught at South Philly’s Music & Mentorship Program, where underprivileged kids learn about music and songwriting. She tried to give them a little something that would take them further than another neat chord progression.

“I wanted to connect with them, so I was referencing pop culture this and that, whoever they’re into,” she says. “But after that I let them know: None of that shit matters, man.”


CP: The fallout from DROP. A fantastical vision of droughts and drilling. Jello shots: not just for fraternity basements anymore. So long, Salon? An unlikely arts institution imperiled.

PW: Nine principles and twelve values…where’s censorship in there? Big Brother is NOT watching, and that’s a problem. Slayer returns; Satan, laughing, spreads his wings. Top of the morning: the corner bar at 7 a.m.

WINNER: They’re still not getting any of my money, but the plight of canvassers lands CP the title this week. Won’t someone please think of the children?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *