Stuart Schuffman is a journalist and activist who writes about the thriving art culture and politics in the Bay Area. He is celebrating his 40th birthday and 20 years of living in San Francisco.
-- Holly Young, 7th Grade
I had the opportunity to interview Schuffman last week to discuss activism in writing, how the Pandemic has changed journalism, and exploring the weird and wonderful around the country.
HY- Tell me about yourself, any background information, anything you want to include.
SS- I first started getting paid to write in 2005, although I was selling my writing before that. You know, before there were blogs, there were zines. You could go to a photocopy store and cut and paste photos copying and making your own publication.
HY- Has the current pandemic impacted journalism, whether it be writing for your publication or any others?
SS- Yeah, it has. The income for journalism is already really bad. So, what happened with the pandemic is that it messed up a lot of advertising, and for my publication, and all publications, it’s the main way to make money. Journalism was already in trouble and the pandemic made it much worse.
HY- What made you want to be a journalist, and specifically a travel writer?
SS- It’s funny, I often don’t think of myself as a journalist but I guess I am. Travel writing was easy, I was like ‘wait, I get to travel and write about it, that’s all I really want to do’. And I have always been a writer. But, more than anything, I pay journalists, you know. I’m a publisher.
HY- How did you go from being a writer to hosting your own television show and what was that experience like?
SS- So I had done travel writing for a long time before that and had just put out my new book, this was 2008. I was interviewed by this website called Gothamist and they said, ‘what do you want to do next’. And, I said, ‘I want to do a TV show’, and some producers reached out to me and I came to them and we really liked each other and we decided to work on something. It took a couple years to make it happen and eventually we made this show called Young Broke and Beautiful and it was on ISC in 2011. It was one of the best things I’d ever done, it was so much fun. I got to travel around the U.S exploring the weird and wonderful! It was a dream.
SS- I went to college at UC Santa Cruz, and San Francisco was the next logical step. You know, it was this beautiful, wide open, quirky city full of interesting people, and I just said yes, and have been saying yes ever since.
HY- What would you say is your area of expertise?
SS- I think I am best at making people emote, you know, making them feel emotion. I enjoy, and think I do some of the best of poetry and prose. It’s what I enjoy doing the most because it’s creative and engaging and truthful, most of the time.
HY- You ran for mayor in 2015, is there any way that being a writer and an activist helped with your campaign?
SS- While running for mayor, I was also writing about it to my site, and the SF Examiner. But, it also put more of a fire into me, in terms of being an activist because I was deep in it and I was seeing how broken and crooked the system is and it made me more dismayed by it, and it made me want to be more active. Writing is a great way to do that, especially journalism. There’s a saying: Sunlight is the Best Disinfectant. And that to me is where journalism serves its best purpose, because it’s about taking the shady things that are happening and shine a light on them and cause people to learn things they wouldn’t have known about before. And by doing that, you can create change.
HY- What does writing mean to you?
SS- It’s a way, at least for me, I can kind of speak to myself by focusing my thoughts because my thoughts ping pong around my mind. And, sometimes, you don’t realize what the thing you’re thinking about means to yourself. So sitting down and writing it out and getting out onto the page helps you clarify that. So, on one hand, speaking to yourself, but [on the other hand] speaking loudly to other people too. When you distill down what you’re thinking and feeling, you can then amplify that to other people too.