What You’ll Learn…
- Founder and director of the Evergrey, Monica Guzman’s history in the city of Seattle and her view on the idea of “good” journalism in today’s political climate.
- How Guzman started the Evergrey and what she hopes it accomplishes for residents of Seattle.
- Guzman’s thoughts on Seattle’s current affordability issues.
- Guzman’s opinions on Seattle’s culture and rapid growth.
- Guzman’s greatest hope and fear for Seattle moving forward.
When it comes to being considered a “local” in Seattle, Monica Guzman knows that it depends on who you ask. A resident of Seattle for 11 years now, Guzman’s roots in the city have certainly grown deep. She, her husband, and her two kids call the sleepy neighborhood of Wedgwood home, with its popular Wedgwood Alehouse and legendary “Wedgwood Rock.” Despite her seemingly extensive knowledge about the area, Guzman didn’t start out in Seattle; in fact, her first couple jobs after college were at the Houston Chronicle in Texas and a tiny paper in Michigan. Once arriving in Seattle in 2006, she bounced around between many different papers and start-ups, building a pretty impressive portfolio of local work. These experiences have allowed her to see “good” journalism live and die and build her own opinions on its preservation.
The question “how do we preserve ‘good’ journalism” is not so cut and dry, as Guzman notes. In today’s political climate, it is so easy to see how distance from others can turn our use of technology and information ugly; however, Guzman believes that a way through this is by paying attention to local news. With local news, you are right there with others; you share the same space and you can see eye-to-eye on social issues. With “fake news” abounding in today’s society, Guzman believes strongly in the power of local news.
This belief is what prompted her and her co-founder, Anika Anand, to start the Evergrey, a daily newsletter for residents of Seattle who want to learn how to make the most of their city. Their motto is to “live like you live here;” that is, to find your place in the city and start building local relationships that matter. For both newbies and long-time residents, it can feel like you’re waking up in a new city everyday right now; the Evergrey wants to help these people feel more grounded and connected to where they live. This newsletter is only one part of a larger start-up called WhereBy.Us, which hosts other newsletters around the country. Guzman appreciates that each newsletter starts with a design and research process that is entirely local. After all, you cannot be considered local if you take one model and use it in different places; you have to build based on what works in that area. Guzman has seen the Evergrey model work through stories from readers, like the one who shared an Evergrey story on Facebook and noted that they have the ability to find light in the darkness. Guzman says that if you can write honestly, but with the energy of a person who wants your city to be great, others will sense it.
Between 2015 and 2016, Guzman received a fellowship in Cambridge, Massachusetts. She and her family left Seattle for about 11 months. When she left, the housing affordability conversation had not quite kicked off the ground yet. Upon her return, it was everything. Guzman notes the ever-popular San Francisco comparison and notes that there are factors at play in Seattle that could make the city just as exclusive. One of those factors is the housing market. Guzman notes that it is a rare week at the Evergrey when they do not discuss homelessness. Guzman in particular finds it bothersome that there is so much distance between the housed and the unsheltered; we know it’s a problem, but we don’t know how to fix it. She appreciates Seattle’s culture of “we ought to do right by each other,” but notes that it can be hard to be aware of your own implications. Residents in Seattle are living in a time where it’s impossible to be aware of what’s going on and not be conflicted about where you sit and how you ought to relate to others. While she still thinks that Seattle is a cool place to live (with its booming restaurant scene and access to the outdoors), Guzman is also aware that there is a lot of work to be done.
Guzman understands that Seattle can be both an exciting and intimidating place for newcomers. She suggests that the best way to respect the character of the city is to just be open to it. This rings especially true when dealing with the popular “Seattle freeze.” Guzman notes that Seattlites value authentic relationships and because of this, will “freeze” out anyone new who tries to enter their tribe. While this seems exclusionary, Guzman sees it as a positive that these people have found others to share their community with. When it comes to being a Seattlite, Guzman suggests doing all you can to quickly make the city feel like yours, for once you do, your opinion of the place will take on a new passion and meaning; you will feel of the place and the place will feel of you.
From a certain perspective, Guzman understands that Seattle’s rapid growth can seem incredibly positive. However, she also knows that affordability restricts this view to a certain number and type of people. Therefore, she hopes to one day see a Seattle that has learned to make room for everyone and make a lot of great things accessible to everyone. Right now, Seattle does not have the natural diversity that other cities like New York can boast of. She hopes to see that change and wishes she could wave a magic wand and fix it herself. Luckily, Guzman does not believe that there are inherently bad people out there. She feels that every bad consequence has been the result of good reasoning; it’s just a matter of balancing that out. She’s not sure how to fix things in Seattle, but with projects like the Evergrey, she’s going to do everything in her power to try.
About the Interviewee
Monica Guzman is the co-founder and director of the Evergrey, a daily newsletter for residents of Seattle. For more info on the Evergrey, or to subscribe, visit www.theevergrey.com. You can also follow the Evergrey on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.