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Arts & Culture

"Bullshit artist" Mike Sager is publishing the new new journalism

Writer-publisher recounts how he came to establish a modern haven for long-form nonfiction

Photo: , License: N/A

Photo: , License: N/A

This whole thing you’re doing with Next Wave and The Stories We Tell, I mean, it is so hard for the younger generation to find ways to do that kind of story. Did you set out to become a champion of this kind of stuff?

There’s not a big market for those stories. But the thing is, the market is expanding because of new digital magazines like Byliner. But all this stuff came out of organic conversations and arguments with Walt Harrington [who co-edited Next Wave]. He’s an old, old friend and we love to argue, and his view was very institutional about the “death of journalism.” And I said, “No, man, there are all these young guys, and I talk to them, they call me all the time and they’re so into what we’re into. There’s still kids out there who care, and we should do a fucking book and I’ll prove it to you.”

Then we put together the book and I sent out all these solicitations for blurbs and I get a call back from the head of a journalism school who complained that there were only like three women in there, and I’m like, “It had to be under a certain age and we eliminated first-person journalism, and this was all that was left.” Because women’s magazines don’t pay for this stuff. It’s men’s magazines and sports magazines that do it.

But then we were at Missouri at a conference and these two girls came up to me and I said, “You need to start something on your own. I’ll help, I’ll do whatever I can do.” So they started The Riveter [therivetermagazine.com] and meanwhile, I said, “We’re going to do some women’s books.” And the one I was calling “the Bible” is now called The Stories We Tell, after the Joan Didion quote, and that will be, hopefully, like The New Journalism for women. And we have Patsy Sims from Goucher, who is amazing, and The Riveter girls – and I say that “grrrls,” please – are paid researchers putting that together. The money I’m spending on this now is the money my dad gave me, which he made being an OB/GYN. It’s just too good.

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