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Progressive Review

SINCE 1964, WASHINGTON'S MOST UNOFFICIAL SOURCE

THE PROGRESSIVE REVIEW'S ROLE IN DC


City Desk was the local section of the Progressive Review - one of one of America's longest lasting alternative journals. The Review was begun by Sam Smith in 1964 as The Idler when there were just a handful of such independent publications in the U.S., such as IF Stone's Weekly, the Realist, the Carolina Israelite, and the Village Voice. It morphed into the DC Gazette in 1969 and became the Progressive Review in 1985. It began publishing an online edition in 1994 and started a website in 1995.

In 1966, Smith also started an alternative neighborhood newspaper on Capitol Hill, the Capitol East Gazette, serving a community that was 75% black but also home to some of the most powerful whites in the country. In 1968 Washington went up in flames with half of its four major riot strips in the Gazette's circulation area. In 1969, the Gazette became a citywide alternative paper., the DC Gazette.

During the 1960s, the Gazette was a voice of the anti-war movement and the leading journalistic opponent of the city's planned freeway system. It mixed city reportage with national coverage believing, with theologian Martin Marty, in the need for "a place from which to view the world." Boris Weintraub in the Washington Star described the Gazette as "a combination of things Americans profess to hold dear: iconoclasm, a deeply felt sense of community and, above all, independence."

For many years, the Gazette also provided alternative coverage of the arts, with writers such as Tom Shales (now with the Washington Post and a nationally syndicated TV critic) and movie critic Joel Siegel. Patricia Griffith, later president of the Pen/Faulkner Foundation, was also among the paper's arts critics.

The Gazette featured the photography of Roland Freeman, the first photographer to win a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities and later a leading expert on African-American quilts. In the mid-70s the arts section was spun off as an independent non-profit publication, the Washington Review, which won a number of awards during its 25-year life as an independent journal.

The Gazette long published the only urban planning comic strip in America, drawn by DC architect John Wiebenson, who played a major role in saving a number of historic buildings along Pennsylvania Avenue and elsewhere in the city. And -- until its author was released from prison -- the Gazette published the only column written from behind bars for a non-prison publication.

In the 1970s the Gazette published the first article calling for DC statehood. It urged the development of light rail transit and bikeways, and proposed the creation of neighborhood commissions. With a mixture of controversy and wit, it repeatedly locked horns with the city government and the Washington establishment. In the mid 1980s it suggested that the DC Statehood Party change its name and become the first American Green party with ballot status.

In the 1980s, the DC Gazette stopped running local news but since then, local coverage has cropped up from time to time in various guises, the latest being the online City Desk

About the editor

BIOGRAPICAL NOTES

Sam Smith is a writer, activist and social critic who has been at the forefront of new ideas and new politics for several decades. He is the author of four highly acclaimed books, the latest of which is Why Bother? He is a native Washingtonian who covered his first stories in the capital in 1957 as a radio reporter at the age of 19.

Among his local activities:

- Captive Capital, considered one of the best books on modern Washington.

-- The first article outlining how DC could become a state. This article, a few months later, led to the creation of the DC Statehood Party. Smith also played various leadership roles in the party.

- Urged the creation of neighborhood commissions and then served as one of the first advisory neighborhood commissioners.

- Helped to found the DC Community Humanities Council

- Helped to start the Capitol Hill Arts Workshop.

- Helped to start the Washington Review of the Arts

- For five years was the only white member of a panel otherwise comprised of black journalists on the "Ernest White Show," broadcast on public TV and radio.

- Had articles published in the Washington Post, Washington Star, Washington World, Regardies Magazine, Washington Monthly, Roll Call, Washington Tribune, Washington City Paper, Washington History, and Potomac Review.

- Has been a plaintiff in seven public interest law suits, three of them successful, including an action against a DC Transit fare increase, a ground-breaking suit establishing the authority of neighborhood commissions, and a case in support of Mitch Snyder's homeless shelter. Among the unsuccessful suits was one challenging Congress' refusal to grant local self-government which went all the way to the Supreme Court.

- Was a guest host of the Fred Fiske Show, guest commentator and cohost of Washington Review of the arts on WAMU

- Worked as a newsman for WWDC and Deadline Washington radio news service.

- A longtime member of the DC NAACP Police & Justice Task Force

- Was president of the John Eaton Home & School Association

- Was a longtime board member of the Metropolitan Planning & Housing Association

- A member of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee, where he served as a public relations advisor to local chair Marion Barry.

- Member of the Gene McCarthy caucus on the Democratic Central Committee

- Recipient of awards from Society of Professional Journalists, Washington Chapter; co-recipient of first annual Public Humanities Award; named best DC political columnist by City Paper; DC Gray Panthers; Washington Review of the Arts