For the past few months we’ve been noticing people reading Brooklyn Bread, a small, photo-centric journal of Brooklyn Food news that’s distributed to cafés, bars and shops around the borough. The size and the fact that it’s black-and-white on newsprint makes it feel like a small-town penny saver paper–which we love.
When we finally managed to grab one for our own perusal, and read all their fantastic food event coverage and enthusiastic local columnists inside, we realized that after Brooklyn Based, Brooklyn Bread would be our second dream start-up publication to run. We thought, why don’t we know the editors? Who are these people daring to start a print publication in 2010? So we contacted founding editors Danielle Franca Swift and Jack Wright and asked them to answer some questions.
Brooklyn Based: Can you elaborate on your backgrounds beyond what’s on your website? How did you end up working on Brooklyn Bread?
Danielle: Prior to Brooklyn Bread, I produced exhibition, publishing, editorial and advertising projects for fine art and commercial clients. I am an artist and earlier this year I co-founded and launched a website that features a visual aggregate of 100+ photography blogs that update in real time. Having spent the past 10 years in new media and digital post production I felt nostalgic for good, old-fashioned newsprint.
Jack: I have been an editor on national newspapers and magazines in London and New York for around 20 years. A few years ago I started my own publishing company, shifting my focus onto local markets. I produce weekly magazines and books on wildly different subjects.
BB: How did Brooklyn Bread come into being? What was the process of starting it up like?
Jack: It was Danielle’s idea, though I love food even more than she does, and my company provided the publishing expertise. Together we formed a new company, Brooklyn Bread Press.
Danielle: We wanted to create a publication that helped celebrate and support local farmers, chefs, shops AND the folks who support these efforts and products by shopping local. The magazine’s format was inspired by Exit Zero, a community-oriented publication that Jack does in Cape May, New Jersey.
BB: Why a print publication in 2010? And do you pay your writers?
Jack: It does seem counter-intuitive when we all read about the decline and death of newspapers and magazines. But all over the country, small, well-targeted magazines are thriving, and it has already become apparent, from the six issues we have published, that people still love the tactile experience of reading a physical magazine. Pop our magazine in your pocket, and you have with you a wealth of curated information about food and drink in Brooklyn that is more easily accessible than even an iPhone.
Danielle: Many of our customers and potential customers pay attention to hand-crafted details, to the overall aesthetic. We do, too. We love typography, we love words on paper, the very feel of paper. We should also point out that we print with soy-based inks on recycled paper–and that you can also read the whole paper at brooklynbreadpress.com.
Jack: As for paying writers–we do, but less than they deserve. Magazine start-ups are hard even in the best of times.
BB: On the site you call Brooklyn Bread “hyperlocal.” I’d also argue that there’s a “hyperniche” element in there. Do you see that as a growing market, a hopeful space for journalism?
Jack: Unquestionably. Look at magazines like Ready Made and Make, which are very successful, and more established magazines like Runner’s World, which is posting large circulation rises. Niche magazines, with carefully curated, well-designed content, are the future. General info magazines have very little to offer any more.
BB: What kind of food writing do you most admire? And, most loathe?
Jack: I don’t know that I’d put food writing under a peculiar microscope. I loathe all writing that is self-referential for the sake of it and which doesn’t contain real reporting, information and insight. Good writing is impossible without good information gathering. If a writer also happens to have a wealth of knowledge about their subject, and a sense of humor and/or strong viewpoint, then they enter the realm of greatness. It’s easy to compare someone like M.F.K. Fisher to Pauline Kael or Roger Angell. Food, film, baseball…the principles are the same.
Danielle: A cup of tea, a notepad and a collection of M.F. K Fisher writings sounds pretty great to me.
Danielle: They’re not so keen on processed animal food, preferring treats like freshly boiled chicken, and quality dry food. Their writing and editing skills are still a little spotty, and their grasp of grammar a little shaky. But they’re SO cute.
BB: Your small, photo-heavy format almost seems like the foodie society pages. What is your relationship to the foodie scene in Brooklyn? Is that vibe intentional?
Danielle: We dislike the word “scene” on principle. We simply choose the events that we feel are most interesting, inspiring or just plain fun, and we send our photographers. We don’t aim for bold-faced names, though we’ve had a few in our pages. Rather than “scene,” we think our humble little rag can play a part in helping to celebrate a job well done while keeping the members of this community engaged and inspired.
BB: What sort of foodies are you? Community gardeners? Canners?
Jack: We both like to grow vegetables, though Danielle is a lot better at it. She has natural green fingers, whereas I think I have very special skills when it comes to consuming food.
BB: Favorite restaurants or shops in Brooklyn? Death row Brooklyn eats?
Danielle: Brooklyn Farmacy, D’Vine Taste, Eat, Good Fork, Iris Cafe, Prime Meats, Sycamore, Sun in Bloom, Four and Twenty Blackbirds…there are so many. Sprout Home is a beautiful shop. Death row Brooklyn ingredients: Kale and ginger. Kale and white bean soup with parmigiano is a favorite. Roberta’s Brusselmania pizza (minus the pancetta for my palate) is just so good.
Jack: It’s hard to pinpoint favorites, because it depends so much on what you’re looking for at any particular time. Most recent visits: Prime Meats, Clover Club, Jake Walk and Wing Bar, on Smith Street, where I gorged on amazing wings and blueberry beer. Favorite shop, by a mile, Sterling Place, on Atlantic Avenue. It’s heaven.
BB: What has been the biggest surprise in the process of starting up Brooklyn Bread?
Jack: I’ve been pleasantly surprised by how quickly it has been accepted by the readers…and a little surprised that we don’t already have 100 advertisers!
Danielle: We are so grateful for all the support we’ve received since our launch.