Jason Bailey decided when he turned 30 that he had to do more than slam poetry to voice his feelings about Columbia. So he launched a newspaper called CoMo to provide what he said other local papers lack: community-based writers, diverse voices and sources, minorities and news beyond the strip between MU and Broadway.
CoMo’s mission is to “push the envelope” on issues such as education, politics, racism, ethnicity, culture, business, ageism and religion, he said.
“What’s different with this publication is that we’re not trying to take any position,” he said. “We’re just trying to make information available.”
Bailey wants CoMo writers to offer an “internal” view of Columbia uninhibited by editors, agendas and media owners. “There’s a lot of good writers in this area, and a lot of publications will make you jump through hoops. All that we ask is that you write.”
Jay Fredrick, a freelance writer and a truck driver for a plumbing supply company, has written for CoMo. The paper, he said, “brings to life what people know exist but kind of ignore. … A lot of people are picking it up even though they don’t like what’s in it just to see what it’s going to publish next.”
Fredrick wrote “Pusherman” for CoMo’s premiere issue. It’s a verbatim interview with a drug dealer that tries to convey a sense of normalcy in his life.
“The mainstream media does not want to touch that,” he said.
Bailey said “Pusherman” illustrates the “rawness” of his paper. And he doesn’t apologize for giving the dealer a forum. “Drug dealers exist, don’t they?” he said. “There is no message beyond that. … This is what exists in your community.”
CoMo’s operations director, Anthony Stanton, 31, agrees. “We just put it out there, and we let the citizens of Columbia decide what they feel about it and what they want to do about it.”
CoMo’s first two issues featured stories on teen drug use, spirituality and what the paper dubs “neo-segregation” at West Boulevard Elementary School. West Boulevard, which has a high percentage of minority students, has become a model school experimenting with curriculum changes, longer school days and a longer school year.
Tyler Woodcock, 26, an employee at Lakota Coffee Co., has noticed CoMo circulating and said it has a distinctly political slant.
“There seems like there’s less editing going on and a little more freer language used — and more perspective portrayed in the stories.”
After starting the newspaper, Bailey, 32, earned a history degree at MU, and he now works as a student advocate at Parkade Elementary School. Stanton works in construction and operates a non-profit organization that helps minority contractors.
“CoMo is organic,” meaning it’s changing and improving with every issue, Bailey said. Some readers have complained about small type, while others have asked for more pages.
“Buy ads” is Bailey’s response.
David Campbell, owner of The Martini Bar, said full-page ads in the first two issues produced a positive response for him.
“They have an unusual approach to things,” he said.
Bailey said he takes care to prevent his paper from being stereotyped as an African-American paper.
“We don’t want to be a black paper; we want to be a paper,” he said. “We’re black-owned. That’s what’s important.”
CoMo’s third issue will be available free in cafes and shops toward the end of April. Bailey said an online version will launch today at www.comomagazineonline.com.