Persevering in Print in a Digital World

By Special Contributor posted 04-23-2015 13:10

  
 By Danielle Del Sol

 1975 – In a funny twist of fate, the very first issue of Preservation Press, later Preservation in Print, featured the Leeds-Davis building on its cover, labeled the Gallier Warehouse (top right). PRC bought that structure 25 years later and rehabbed the building for use as its headquarters. PRC is still located there today.
1975 – In a funny twist of fate, the very first issue of Preservation Press, later Preservation in Print, featured the Leeds-Davis building on its cover, labeled the Gallier Warehouse (top right). PRC bought that structure 25 years later and rehabbed the building for use as its headquarters. PRC is still located there today.
New Orleans’ Preservation in Print magazine (PIP), which began its life as a small newspaper called Preservation Press in 1975, celebrates 40 years of information, inspiration and a bit of agitation this year.

The publication, which is the magazine of the nonprofit Preservation Resource Center of New Orleans, has evolved in tone through the years, from early days of feisty finger-pointing to present-day articles where advocacy takes more nuanced forms, appealing to people’s pocketbooks (local real estate prices are skyrocketing, after all) as much as their emotions. The publication’s purpose is to promote the mission and work of PRC, but also to promote preservation in general. If the public doesn’t understand the myriad ways preservation is important and improves our city, our neighborhoods and our daily lives, our organization will cease to exist, as will our entire field.

So the magazine appeals to readers on all levels. Architecture, economic development, community relations, sustainability, adaptive use projects, tourism, and rehabs, rehabs, rehabs: If you love New Orleans, you will love our magazine. It’s a publication that charts the city’s evolution through its built environment, and perhaps as such could only exist in a city whose populace is as obsessed with demolition and new retail gossip as it is with local corruption cases.

The mission of the PRC is to promote the preservation, restoration and revitalization of New Orleans’ historic architecture and neighborhoods, and PIP works to fulfill this mission by informing and inspiring readers. The subhead of our magazine might as well be “Before and After;” from grand renovations to DIY-style articles that help readers of more modest means understand how they too could restore a historic home, PIP exists to make preservation relevant to everyone.

 October 1981- Preservation Press changed formats and names in 1981 to Preservation in Print.
October 1981- Preservation Press changed formats and names in 1981 to Preservation in Print.
All 40 years of Preservation in Print are available online on PRC’s website, and reading through old issues is like seeing a flip-book of the city’s redevelopment in past decades. Neighborhoods in decline and entire blighted blocks are transformed as whole swaths of the city are revitalized, often spurred by efforts of PRC and other early urban pioneers. Articles record history as some iconic buildings are lost, and others are saved; as city officials and residents squawk over quality-of-life issues and wrangle a balance between tourism and residential needs; as developers with good intentions use rehab tax incentives to effect huge change while those without preservation mindsets try to slip projects past residents’ watchful eyes; and as neighbors come together, time and again, in the decades before Hurricane Katrina and in the 10 years since, to make their homes, streets and city safer, healthier and more beautiful—a New Orleans where the bountiful history and culture are brought into modern day for all to admire and enjoy.

PIP is monthly in the “Big Easy” sense, i.e., published nine times a year, with healthy breaks for the winter holidays and summertime—and while reporting on relics of the past, it is a bit of one itself. Besides the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s impressive Preservation magazine, I am not aware of any other glossy, full-sized magazines dedicated solely to historic preservation in this nation. We are stubborn stalwarts of the printed word, devotees of the importance and sheer pleasure of holding written information in your hand.

And yet we live in a city whose own daily newspaper went defunct, devolving into a thrice-weekly offering. (Fortunately another daily has stepped into the vacuum.) Print publications are dying all around us. We haven’t exactly figured out the secret for how to stay afloat, but we have a business model that has kept us running so far, and will, we pray, for another four decades.

 December 2005- PIP came back to print within a few short months of Hurricane Katrina’s devastation, and became a vital tool for New Orleanians looking for information on how to clean out their flooded homes and move back.
December 2005- PIP came back to print within a few short months of Hurricane Katrina’s devastation, and became a vital tool for New Orleanians looking for information on how to clean out their flooded homes and move back.
It works like this: One-third of the 40-or-so-page magazine each month needs to be filled with ads. That revenue is crucial. Our beautiful bulldog of an ad saleswoman has been at it for nearly two decades (and even served a term as PRC president in the meantime). If your name or company shows up in Preservation in Print, watch out—Jackie is coming for you.

Just as critical is the support of the state. The Louisiana State Historic Preservation Office, through the Department of Culture and Tourism, has been a generous supporter of the publication since its early years—so generous that our masthead proclaims, on every cover, that PIP is published by the Preservation Resource Center and the Louisiana SHPO. Without this support, PIP would not exist.

Volunteer writers and photographers keep our magazine full of incredible content, and we are grateful for their countless hours of donated work. But there are still expenses to cover, though—a full-time staff person, small sums for the occasional big-name writer or photographer, and the rest of those glossy magazine pages every month.

These expenses—the rest of the monthly tab—are covered by our nonprofit’s dynamic development department, which makes up the difference through membership dues and by throwing killer parties several times a year to fundraise. The dedication of these funds to continue PIP’s lifespan is largely thanks to the ever-loyal, unyielding faith of PRC’s longtime executive director, Patricia H. Gay. A former PIP editor herself, Patty is convinced that without this magazine to help spread the good news of preservation in New Orleans and beyond, no one would belong to PRC, and it would be much harder to make the case to redevelop historic structures and promote urban living in our city than it already is.

 PIP covers feature buildings at risk, newly restored structures, and people experiencing New Orleans’ historic neighborhoods. They also advertise for PRC’s fantastic events.
PIP covers feature buildings at risk, newly restored structures, and people experiencing New Orleans’ historic neighborhoods. They also advertise for PRC’s fantastic events.
And it is hard. There is never a shortage of issues to report on in PIP. There are always controversial development projects afoot in New Orleans, as well as wonderful ones. Our dedicated readers regularly report that they read the publication “cover to cover,” and we strive to get the magazine into the right hands. More than 3,000 issues are mailed directly to PRC members each month, while another 5-7,000 are strategically distributed throughout the city and mailed to supporters around the world.

This is not to brag. We’d love more members and subscribers; it’s not easy to break even in this modern economy. In fact, we never do. But the dedicated staff and volunteers of PIP, for the last 40 years, have pressed on anyway, determined to do all they can to help save the soul of a city that has done so much for each of us.

Danielle Del Sol is the editor of Preservation in Printthe magazine of the Preservation Resource Center of New Orleans.

#PreservationTools #Advocacy #ReUrbanism #HurricaneKatrina

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