The Bridge, the student-directed Memphis street newspaper. Fotografía de Cortesía de The Bridge
Photography by Cortesía de The Bridge

The Bridge, the student-directed Memphis street newspaper

14/09/2021
By Maggie Youngs

The Bridge circulates in Memphis and is unique within the street newspaper network in that it is entirely run by students. It was founded in 2013 by three students from Rhodes College, inspired by the street newspaper The Contributor in Nashville. In this article, both newspapers share the stage: Maggie Youngs of The Contributor and Emma Figarsky of The Bridge, talk about how their model operates.

The Bridge, a student-run nonprofit street newspaper in Memphis, aims to empower the homeless in the city.

The newspaper was founded in 2013 by three Rhodes College students: Evan Katz, Caroline Ponseti, and James Eckenstedt. Inspired by The Contributor, they saw a problem in their community and wanted to be part of the solution.

They contacted Israel Bayer, director of the International Network of North American Street Newspapers, who helped them find the best way to adapt the model of street newspaper for Memphis. They also met with Tom Wills, co-founder of The Contributor, and other volunteers to better understand the organization’s infrastructure and operations.

The Bridge officially obtained its status as a non-profit organization in April 2014 and is currently the only student-run street newspaper in the world affiliated with the International Network of Street Newspapers (INSP). The organization strives to engage and serve the Memphis community while creating an opportunity for students to develop their writing, business management, and leadership skills.

The newspaper is currently run by a team of 25 Rhodes College students and led by a core executive team, which includes fourth-year student Emma Figarsky. The Contributor spoke with Figarsky about managing the newspaper.

How did you got involved with The Bridge and what is your current role?

I got involved with The Bridge in the fall of 2018. I had been a part of student-run newspapers in high school and was very interested in the mission of The Bridge. I was excited to be part of a newspaper that has such an impact on the community. I started in the marketing department and then became a marketing manager. I am currently serving as Co-Executive Director alongside Ellen Lemm.

Hhy is The Bridge different from other street newspapers?

The Bridge is run entirely by volunteer students. Because it is a student organization, there is a higher turnover of the administrative and editorial team than in other street newspapers. This can create challenges, but it also gives students the opportunity to gain a lot of experience. Additionally, although The Bridge is a student organization, it does not receive funding directly from Rhodes, so students are also responsible for fundraising to continue the newspaper’s operations.

How has The Bridge had to adapt in the last year due to the pandemic?

When the pandemic hit, we had to stop printing the newspaper. At that time we were printing a new issue every month. It took us a while to figure out how we were going to adjust. At the beginning of the summer, we had a fundraising campaign that allowed us to create help packages for sellers. The care packages included monetary support, face masks, gloves, and resource packages with basic information about COVID and local pantry providers, but we knew this was only temporary support.

We also tried to maintain contact with vendors through a direct phone line, assessing their needs and informing them of the community resources available. We wanted to further support the community, but felt the pressure to be a student organization required to follow school health protocols. However, even though we had to stop our monthly print issues, we moved to posting weekly articles online to continue raising awareness about the homeless and the organization.

What has been The Bridge’s biggest challenge in the last year?

Not being able to be face to face with salespeople changes everything. It has been difficult to maintain contact with them during the pandemic, especially since many do not have constant access to telephones or computers. We have a direct line that we have been able to use to speak to many of them, but limited physical contact has made connection difficult.

What are the current plans for the future of The Bridge?

We anticipate being able to print the newspaper again. We look forward to distributing The Bridge to vendors at St. Mary’s Cathedral, a church that is central to the homeless community here in Memphis and where we have done distribution in the past. The energy of our student volunteers has been encouraging and gives us confidence. They are full of enthusiasm to train new salespeople and start selling. We are hopeful for the summer to come for The Bridge and the homeless community here in Memphis.

Traducción de Adriana Nodal-Tarafa. Cortesía de The Contributor / INSP.ngo

Maggie Youngs

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