Pub crawl: New publications hit town

Though area newsstands are already packed with local papers, there's apparently still demand for reading matter. At least that's what two new publications hitting the street this spring are hoping.

The first, The African American Reflector, took its first breath on March 21.

"We wanted to offer a different perspective on news and events that are shaping the community," says Charlottesville native and Reflector editor Corey Carter, 31, who co-founded the paper with another 31-year-old Charlottesville native, Waki Wynn.

Five years ago, the two had an idea for a publication, but they didn't put it into action until last year. And, as employees of The Hook can attest, moving from conception to a printed product isn't easy. "Getting it out was stressful," Carter says, "because we didn't know what it was going to look like."

The first issue– 12 pages with a print run of 6,000– was written primarily by volunteers. Topics covered include business, such as Carter and Wynn's other brainchild, event planning company Wacky Entertainment, which is featured on the first page. [It was also the subject of a February 13 Hook story: "Wynn feeds sophisticated cravings"].

There's also an essay on "Facing our Racial Reality" by UVA professor of African-American and American Studies Corey Walker. And there's even whole page in homage to the recent CIAA basketball tournament.

A front-page article, written by Carter, traces the roots of the paper to the original African American Reflector, which was published by Thomas "T.J." Sellers from 1931 to 1934. Sellers later founded the Roanoke Tribune, which became the Charlottesville-Albemarle Tribune, still in print today.

But even though the Tribune still exists, Carter says he believes there's room in Charlottesville for a second African American paper. The Reflector will differ in being a free publication, he says, supported only by advertising dollars, while the Tribune is by subscription.

Agnes Cross-White, editor of the Tribune since 1991, says that while she hasn't yet seen the Reflector, she's happy for the competition. "There's always a place," she says, for differing voices. "I applaud anyone who steps out and does what he wants to do."

And Carter quickly points out that what he wants to do has nothing to do with money. "It wasn't to get rich," he insists. "It was to make a difference in the community."

The second issue will come out at the end of April, and publication will then move to bi-weekly. In addition to being distributed at businesses and churches catering primarily to the local African American population, the paper will also be available at all local grocery stores alongside other free publications like The Hook.

 While The Reflector is hitting newsstands, the second new publication could be hitting your mailbox by June. "The Happy Habitat" is a nature newsletter that will be published by Marlene Condon, former Daily Progress nature columnist.

Condon says she's been thinking about creating such a newsletter for several years, but it's only recently that she's had the time; her DP column had its last run in fall 2002.

She quit last November after managing editor Lou Hatter threatened to muzzle some of her more fiery opinions– such as her scathing pronouncement that bluebirds could be partially responsible for the decline in grasshopper numbers.

"They told me I couldn't write about controversial topics," Condon recalls, "but when you're writing about nature, there's always going to be controversy." Hatter did not return The Hook's call.

With that writing outlet closed, Condon says her newsletter is more timely than ever.

"There's a great need for an understanding of nature," Condon claims, and she certainly should know. "For as long as I can remember," she says, "I've been fascinated with the outdoors. When the bell rang at elementary school, I'd be in the woods looking at things."

Though Condon's degree is actually in physics (from Virginia Tech in 1979), she says her science background has enabled her to watch her surroundings as more than a casual observer. Despite her academic prowess, Condon refuses to embrace email or the internet.

"I really don't need to access the internet," Condon says. "I already have too many magazine subscriptions: Everything comes to me."

And staying offline makes life easier. "My way of living is to have life as simple as possible," she says. The internet would just be "another bill to pay, and another level of complexity in my life."

And in the end, it is her own observations, she insists, that prove most useful. "I have decades of notes," she says. "The reason for my confidence is that I write from personal experience; it's all documented."

A member of the Wildlife Society, Condon regularly teaches classes at the Shenandoah National Park and has also taught a course at UVA.

The newsletter will start out at eight pages with regular features including "Making Your Habitat Happy," in which Condon will offer unusual advice, such as why you should want moths in your yard; a plant profile, which will describe how wildlife use a particular plant; "Bad Ideas," such as gardening products that are more harmful than helpful; "Tasty Tip," information on cooking with ingredients from the garden; and "Condon's Comments," an editorial page.

For illustrations, Condon says that in addition to a photo of herself, there will be a picture of an eastern screech owl. "I consider it very special to see an owl," she says. "Most people don't get to. I have them nesting in my yard." A third picture will be new each month.

To build an initial subscriber list, Condon is soliciting nature clubs and various organizations. Those interested in being added to the mailing list should send their address ("typed or printed clearly, please") to The Happy Habitat/Dept. TH P.O. Box 235 White Hall 22987-0235.

She hopes to get the first one sent in Juneor "maybe a little later." The first issue is free, Condon promises; if readers like it, they can subscribe. Though no price has been set, Condon is guessing it will be $18 year for the 12 issues.