Into the Unknown: Changes at The Pantograph Punch

Society

23.02.2018

Into the Unknown: Changes at The Pantograph Punch

The Pantograph Punch are excited to announce a new direction for the site. From March 2018, we’ll be publishing fewer pieces – and paying everyone more. 


The Catalyst

Halfway through last year, we were made a Kahikatea client with Creative New Zealand, along with 16 other amazing organisations ranging from theatre companies to arts festivals to publishers. It’s a daunting, important opportunity, and one we’re excited to receive, chiefly because it recognises the value we provide to our writers, readers and the arts.

What it means? More certainty. More security. The ability to plan for the future. Instead of applying for small grants, not knowing if we’ll be successful, we now know exactly how much we will be receiving over the next two years, and it’s more than we’ve ever had before: $46,600 in 2018 and $59,100 in 2019. These funds will go towards paying our editors and writers, as well as running a small series of workshops across the country and developing our business model (more on that below).

Having the ability to plan this far into the future is unprecedented for us. Two years doesn’t sound like a lot, but because we’ve always planned our mahi from grant to grant, this new approach opened up a world of possibilities – and, predictably, triggered an existential crisis.

Commonly asked questions during the existential crisis of 2017

  1. If we were starting The Pantograph Punch now, would we do what we’re currently doing?
  2. Who are we? Why do we exist? Should we even exist?
  3. What is actually the best use of these funds?

Common emotions during the existential crisis of 2017

[TV narrator voice]: Previously on The Pantograph Punch 

We went through a lot of changes in 2017: We rolled out a whole new editorial team. The incomparable Lana Lopesi stepped in as Kaiwāwāhi Ahurei (Editor-in-Chief). The equally astonishing Lucinda Bennett replaced her as Kaiwāwāhi Mahi Toi (Visual Arts Editor) and the incredible Matariki Williams joined us as Kaiwāwāhi Kaupapa Māori (Editor – Kaupapa Māori).

We also recruited a panel of cultural advisors and sensitivity readers (who we work with when it’s appropriate) and holy hell, we established a board of mana wāhine, including Courtney Johnston as chair and Puawai Cairns and Jessica Smith as trustees.

With all these changes we published a lot last year: more than a piece a day. Realistically, that's too much for any reader to keep up with. And, ultimately, when you consider our small budget, this ended up being a great way to pay nobody enough for their amazing work and countless hours.

Who do we want to be in 2018?

A site that values its editors and writers – not only financially, but in terms of having a system in place that supports their development.

A site that publishes unique, unexpected, urgent work that tackles vital, big-picture issues and concerns within the art sector and contributing meaningfully to a critical conversation.

A site that endeavours to be a Tiriti partnership organisation in all aspects of what we do: from supporting Māori writers and content (currently this includes our Kaiwāwāhi Kaupapa Māori, as well as our cultural advisors and sensitivity readers), ensuring mana whenua have agency at a governance level, and most importantly, asking questions and listening, and continuing to challenge and improve the ways in which we work.

A site that creates a nourishing space for voices we don’t always hear from, and creates sustainable pathways for writers and editors to develop.

New Year, New Us

From March, we’ll be publishing much less – around one piece a week on average – and we’ll be paying our writers more.

We’ll still continue with our behind-the-scenes workshop process. If you don’t know, everyone who writes with us (usually emerging writers) is paired with an editor, and everything you read on the site will have gone through anywhere between two to eight rounds of feedback and workshops focusing on content, structure and voice.

We’re committed to paying our writers a minimum of $400 per piece, and to ensuring our editors are remunerated appropriately (more than the minimum wage!) for their work, with a cap of $4000 a year.

Our hope is that this change will allow us to be more thoughtful and strategic in what we’re doing: that we’ll publish more meaningful work, and be able to give more attention to the writers we’re working with.

The Hardest Call

Because of these changes, we’ve made the difficult decision to hit pause on publishing reviews. It’s been one of the toughest decisions we’ve made.

During the existential crisis of 2017 (refer above) we came to the somewhat crushing realisation that in underpaying our writers (sometimes as low as $50 a review), we were contributing to a structure that systematically devalues those writers and privileges voices who can afford to write for low pay. In trying to support critical culture, we were simultaneously contributing to its decay.

It’s one of the hardest decisions because it feels so contradictory: we’re stopping doing one of the exact things we believe in the most.

We strongly believe in critical dialogue, and one of our areas of focus for 2018 is finding a way to bring reviewing back. We're committed to creating a sustainable pathway for future critics, so one of the things we’ll be doing is creating a fund which will be dedicated to commissioning reviews. Our commitment is to be able to pay reviewers a minimum of $300 per review, and if you feel as strongly about this as we do, we invite you to donate to that fund here.

 

Creating a more sustainable business model

Although our Creative New Zealand funding supports the majority of what we do, we are also focused on developing a more sustainable business model. Currently, our work is supported by three additional avenues:

Partnerships

We work in partnership with different organisations who also believe in supporting emerging writers and contributing to a healthier and more robust critical culture.

How it works

The institution supports the cost of producing a certain number of pieces (about the work they’re producing) while we retain editorial control. Any pieces produced under a partnership are identified as such on the site.

Crucially, where the partnership is about supporting the publication of reviews, we don’t promise positive reviews, and we don’t promise to review everything.

In 2018, our partners so far are Silo Theatre, The Dowse Art Museum, the Blumhardt Foundation and the New Zealand Contemporary Art Trust.

All our partnerships are different and begin with a conversation around how our values align: we work with Silo Theatre to write the feature essays that go into their show programmes, whereas with The Dowse we are committed to covering four of their shows this year (either as a review, or an interview, or a longer feature). The Blumhardt Foundation supports the publication of four essays on craft and object art and the New Zealand Contemporary Art Trust supports our monthly digest The Unmissables, a round-up of controversial and notable exhibitions each month.

If you’d like to have a chat with us about a potential partnership, you can email our director Rosabel Tan here.

Events

We also produce a small suite of events each year, the profits from which go back towards supporting our editors and writers. We are currently working with FAFSWAG on a series of talks and workshops– for April– but we’ll announce that properly in March.

Our membership scheme

We’re also working behind the scenes on a new membership scheme, which we’re really excited to share with you soon.

In the meantime, if you’d like to support what we do, you can do that below. All funds will go straight back to our writers and editors, and will make all the difference.


Or make a one-off donation

Aroha nui,
The team at The Pantograph Punch

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