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Real Change

real change,
Real Change is a weekly progressive street newspaper based in Seattle, Washington, USA written by professional staff and sold by self-employed vendors, many of whom are homeless The paper provides them with an alternative to panhandling and covers a variety of social justice issues, including homelessness and poverty2 It became weekly in 2005, making it the second American street newspaper ever to be published weekly Real Change is a 501c3 non-profit organization with an annual budget of 950,000 dollars3


  • 1 History and Circulation
  • 2 Contents
  • 3 Vendors
    • 31 Demographics
  • 4 Awards
  • 5 Notes
  • 6 References
  • 7 External links

History and Circulationedit

Real Change has been published by the Real Change Homeless Empowerment Project since 1994;45 the paper's founder, Tim Harris, founded the Spare Change News street newspaper in the Boston area in 1992 After moving to Seattle in 1994, he started Real Change6 as a monthly paper with only one staff member Later, the paper started producing every other week4

In February 2005, Real Change began publishing weekly due to increasing interest and sales,4 making it the second street newspaper in the country to do sonote 1 In addition to becoming a weekly newspaper, it hired several professional journalists shifting its focus to become a broadly progressive alternative paper78 As a biweekly, it sold 18,000 copies every two weeks;4 and now has a weekly circulation of 16,000 papers In April 2013, the paper's price increased from one dollar to two dollars and was the sixth street newspaper to do so9

In 2012, it sold 872,562 copies and raised 957,949 dollars: 6842 percent from donations and grants; 3126 percent from circulation, advertising and subscriptions; and 032 percent from other sources10


The topics covered in Real Change are a mixture of progressive local news and information specifically pertaining to the homeless and poor Though it covers local news, it still openly advocates for "social justice"7 and attempts to educate readers about homelessness4 Some readers, though, admit that they buy the paper more to help out and interact with the vendors than to actually read the contents;811 this pattern of buying is common among street newspapers121314 Part of the reason for the paper becoming a weekly publication in 2005 was to attract more readers and move the newspaper's image from a "charity buy" to a legitimate source of news8


Real Change vendor 2008

Anyone may be a Real Change vendor However, most are poor or unable to hold a regular job due to physical disability, mental illness, criminal records, or other issues11 After attending an orientation and signing a code of conduct, Vendors get their first 10 papers free11 They then buy the paper for sixty cents and sell it for two dollars keeping the difference, plus any tips67 The paper has an average of 350 to 400 active vendors each month12 and there as many as 800 vendors in a year, if occasional vendors are included4

Most vendors sell within Seattle proper, although some sell in the Eastside, as far north as Bellingham, and as far south as Olympia, WA4 Vendors may sell without restriction on sidewalks and public spaces, and sometimes need to obtain permission to sell in commercial areas like malls4 Several vendors are very successful, selling as many as 2,000 papers a month and being known as "fixtures" in the community,11 however most sell far less than that15 Real Change's "turf system" allows vendors selling over 300 papers per month to have priority at certain spots;16 according to Harris, this system allows buyer-vendor relationships to grow and for vendors to become well known in communities, and can minimize conflict and competition between vendors11


In the 2012 annual report, Real Change published data gathered by a voluntary vendor survey10


  • 7670% Male
  • 2079% Female
  • 036% Transgender


  • 472% between 20-29
  • 1457% between 30-39
  • 2598% between 40-49
  • 4409% between 50-59
  • 1063% 60+ years


  • 720% American Indian or Alaskan-Native
  • 038% Asian or Asian American
  • 2433% Black or African American
  • 380% Latino or Hispanic
  • 114% Pacific Islander or Hawaiian Native
  • 4829% Caucasian
  • 1179% Biracial or Multiracial
  • 304% Other

Housing Status

  • 778% Never homeless
  • 4909% Previously homeless
  • 4319% Currently homeless

Current Sleeping Situation

  • 1700% Sleeping outside
  • 1067% Sleeping in a shelter
  • 593% Sleeping in a car
  • 890% Friends or family
  • 711% Transitional housing
  • 2609% Subsidized housing
  • 1107% Market-rate housing
  • 514% More than 2 options
  • 870% Other

Physical or Mental Disability

  • 2520% Physical disability
  • 1707% Mental disability
  • 2724% Both
  • 3049% No disability

Not all the vendors of Real Change are homeless, several are able to afford an apartment by selling the paper and others share accommodations with others Like Washington, DC's Street Sense and Portland, Oregon's Street Roots, Real Change does not screen incoming vendors for income or living situation, nor does it "retire" vendors after they have obtained stable housing The paper's staff have stated, however, that the majority of vendors are living in poverty and no vendors are "living in the bling-bling" from selling papers11



  • Susan Hutchison Bosch Award for outstanding achievement17


  • First place, personalities18


  • Best feature writing1920
  • First place, general news reporting21
  • First place, social issues21
  • First place, minorities21
  • Third place, humorous writing21
  • Honorable mention, personalities21


  • First place, educational reporting22
  • First place, social issues reporting22
  • First place, Arts reporting and criticism22


  • First place, education news23
  • First place, consumer affairs news23
  • Third place, social issues, religion, minority affairs23
  • Third place, personality profile23


  • First place, general news coverage24
  • First place, lifestyle reporting24
  • First place, page design24
  • Second place, government and politics reporting24
  • Second place, feature photography24
  • Third place, page design24


  • First place, general news coverage25
  • First place, government and politics reporting25
  • First place, education reporting25
  • First place, page design25
  • Second place, page design25
  • Second place, social issues reporting25
  • Second place, general excellence25
  • Third place, sports reporting25


  1. ^ StreetWise, a Chicago street newspaper, went weekly in 1998 Green, Norma Fay 1998 "Chicago's StreetWise at the Crossroads: A Case Study of a Newspaper to Empower the Homeless in the 1990s" Print Culture in a Diverse America eds James Philip Danky, Wayne A Wiegand University of Illinois Press p 51 ISBN 0-252-06699-5 


  1. ^ a b "2011 Annual Report" PDF Real Change Retrieved 9 January 2013 
  2. ^ a b Dominic Holden 16 September 2010 "Honorary Political Genius: Tim Harris and Real Change" The Stranger 
  3. ^ Emily Heffter 1 July 2011 "Real Change defends donation to anti-tunnel effort" Seattle Times 
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h Harrell, Debera Carlton 2 February 2005 "Real Change expands to become first weekly street paper" Seattle Post-Intelligencer Retrieved 21 March 2009 
  5. ^ "Real Change History" Real Change 10 March 2008 Retrieved 21 March 2009 
  6. ^ a b "KUOW 949 FM Seattle interview, The Conversation" 15 Feb 2012 roughly at 10:30 into interview
  7. ^ a b c Dawdy, Philip 3 August 2005 "Best Grassroots Media Outlet" Seattle Weekly Retrieved 21 March 2009 
  8. ^ a b c Green, Sara Jean 1 February 2005 "Real Change's transformation includes plan to reach readers" Seattle Times Retrieved 21 March 2009 
  9. ^ Brill, Linda 18 April 2013 "Real Change newspaper's price hike a boost for vendors " KING 5 News Retrieved 20 April 2013 
  10. ^ a b "Real Change: 2012 Annual Report" Real Change 13 March 2013 
  11. ^ a b c d e f Hsu, Huan 10 April 2007 "Not All the Peddlers of Seattle's Homeless Paper Are Homeless" Seattle Weekly Retrieved 14 March 2009 
  12. ^ Brown, Ann M 2002 "Small Papers, Big Issues" Ryerson Review of Journalism Archived from the original on September 11, 2007 Retrieved 12 February 2009 
  13. ^ Torck, Danièle 2001 "Voices of Homeless People in Street Newspapers: A Cross-Cultural Exploration" Discourse and Society 12 3: 271–392 372 doi:101177/0957926501012003005 
  14. ^ Green, Norma Fay 1998 "Chicago's StreetWise at the Crossroads: A Case Study of a Newspaper to Empower the Homeless in the 1990s" Print Culture in a Diverse America eds James Philip Danky, Wayne A Wiegand University of Illinois Press p 40 ISBN 0-252-06699-5 
  15. ^ Harris, Tim 5 April 2007 "Seattle Weekly: What the Fuck" Retrieved 21 March 2009 
  16. ^ "Sandra Sells Social Scoop by the Safeway" Retrieved 13 January 2013  |first1= missing |last1= in Authors list help
  17. ^ "P-I wins 25 regional journalism awards" Seattle Post-Intelligencer 16 May 2004 Retrieved 10 January 2013 
  18. ^ "Excellence in Journalism Competition 2006" PDF Society of Professional Journalists Western Washington Pro Chapter Retrieved 14 January 2013 
  19. ^ "Society of Professional Journalists | Sigma Delta Chi Awards" Society of Professional Journalists Retrieved 10 January 2013 
  20. ^ O'Hagan, Maureen 18 April 2009 "Real Change newspaper wins national award, attracts readers" Seattle Times Retrieved 13 January 2013 
  21. ^ a b c d e "SPJ 09" PDF 2009 Society of Professional Journalists of the Pacific Northwest Retrieved 13 January 2013 
  22. ^ a b c "SPJ Northwest Excellence in Journalism awards" The Seattle Times via The Associated Press 22 May 2010 Retrieved 10 January 2013 
  23. ^ a b c d "2011winners_order" PDF washington press association Retrieved 13 January 2013 
  24. ^ a b c d e f "2012 SPJ Northwest Excellence in Journalism Contest" PDF Society of Professional Journalists Retrieved 12 June 2013 
  25. ^ a b c d e f g h "2013 SPJ Northwest Excellence in Journalism Contest" PDF Society of Professional Journalists Retrieved 12 June 2013 

External linksedit

  • Real Change News Homepage
  • Real Change article on SeattleWiki
  • Real Change Wikispace

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