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
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
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
Among his local
- Captive Capital,
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
- 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