In Nashville, show support for homeless with The Contributor
by Justin McGill, General Manager --
Jan 04, 2012 | 31 31 recommendations | email to a friend | print
When it comes to supporting newspapers, I’m often as much a part of the problem as the solution. Sure, I keep up with other papers around us. I even hope for success for papers that compete with us for readers and advertising dollars.

However, much of that “keeping up with” and “hoping for success” happens within the confines of our office. In general, once I’m out of here, the last thing I want to talk or think about is a newspaper. I get enough of that during a general work week.

There are exceptions. Any time I head out of town for more than a day, I try to take a look through at least one local newspaper. Last weekend, I spent a few days in Nashville. As per usual, I took a look through The Tennessean.

This weekend, I also picked up a copy of another periodical I like to read from time to time – The Contributor.

One issue the vast majority of our readers will never face directly – at least not to the level of metropolitan areas like Nashville – is homelessness. Simply put, it’s unlikely that a walk through Music City’s downtown would not include crossing paths with someone much less fortunate than us.

And for many, it’s simply human nature to want to avoid such an uncomfortable situation. Most people – at least, most people I know – are anti-confrontation, and seeing a homeless person up close can present a multi-faceted dilemma. Why is this person homeless? If I give them money, what will it be used for?

That’s a gutteral, instinctual response, one I’m guilty of having. During my last few trips to Nashville, though, the presence of The Contributor has forced me to alter my approach to the homeless.

The Contributor just began its sixth volume of monthly editions. It’s a tabloid-sized newspaper headquartered out of Nashville’s Downtown Presbyterian Church with a stated goal of providing “a diversity of perspectives on homelessness and to highlight the contributions of homeless and formerly homeless individuals while providing a source of income and creating community between vendors and customers.”

All 400-plus vendors are either homeless or formerly homeless individuals, many of whom are able to provide for themselves through profits and tips earned through selling The Contributor. Much of the content of each issue comes from such individuals, as well.

The Contributor is non-profit and, with a circulation of about 100,000, is the largest street newspaper in North America.

The content is engaging and well-written, but that’s beside the point. With help from their neighbors, a group of less fortunate people is taking it upon themselves to improve upon their situation and doing it in a way that challenges people’s perceptions on the homeless.

Next time you’re in Nashville, find a copy. You’ll be informed and enlightened while helping your fellow man.

Justin McGill is general manager of The Cadiz Record and can be reached by email at
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