How a few people writing TV articles led to an online magazine with stories from all over the country
September 2010 – August 2011
What began as a few TV analysis articles, some restaurant experience pieces and a goofy podcast turned into more than we could’ve ever imagined. During this first year we made it on the evening news while awaiting the Rapture in Times Square, got an interview with renowned journalist Robert Caro about the long-delayed Second Avenue Subway line, toured the five boroughs in one day, rode the ferry with Mayor Bloomberg, attended all kinds of literary readings, talked about different jobs and much more. From our first column (The Swoboda Factor) to our weekly writers round-up (Realcity Check) we had a lot to say and didn’t care who heard it.
This first issue came a year into our run, but it was well worth the wait. While most notable for “The Subway Report,” Cole’s multi-part series about spending 50 consecutive hours in the New York subway system — which nearly gave Katie a heart attack — this was the most comprehensive group of pieces we’d published yet. Since we were still focused solely on New York at the time, it only seemed right that our first issue be about the one thing that unifies every citizen there. Once you’re in a subway car you’re just another commuter like everyone else.
This was a tough time in the site’s history. We’d lost almost everyone from our original team and had started to wonder if our families were the only ones reading anymore. Even friends seemed to have stopped paying attention. Unsure of what would come next, we decided to go out on a defiant note and were pleasantly surprised to tap into that same feeling in various stories from around New York. This cover was also our first piece of original artwork by Cole’s sister, Hannah, and still remains one of our favorites.
After a long winter, this marked our triumphant return and the beginning of Realcity as you know it today. With Katie stepping up from media editor to managing editor, we solidified our efforts and went big. This issue marked the debut of our Climb/Maintain/Escape format, multi-city scope and new web address. We had a renewed sense that what we were doing resonated with people in all cities and felt very optimistic. Shortly after this issue we also began The Wandering Brooklynite — a column about the weirder side of city life — from our longest-standing writer, Corey Pajka.
This was our most cohesive collection since The Subway Issue and a nice return to form. Like any good city park, this issue had elements of fun while also inspiring reflection. It was the first cover to feature both editors — a nice representation of Katie’s increasing role in the site.
At the time this was our biggest issue yet and felt like a very exciting way to mark Realcity‘s two year anniversary. More often than not, jobs are what bring us to cities and keep us here in the face of adversity. It was nice to hear a range of opinions from cities all over the country on why everyone worked as hard as they did and what it all meant. This also marked the debut of our Success series, which drew a lot of inspiration from Working by Studs Terkel. That the first installment came from a man whose father’s story was not only in the book but served as its first chapter — something we had no idea about until the interview began — felt very fitting.
Since urban areas are known for being predominantly liberal, it’s common to be surrounded by people with the same thoughts and values as yourself. We were very excited to get a variety of perspectives on the presidential election and politics in general from writers all over the country. This marked the beginning of our issue-only format and a turning point in the site’s editorial direction. Over two years in, we finally realized that posting more focused pieces less often was better than posting random things for the sake of having a presence every day.
We were feeling a little doubtful about the site’s future at this point, but this was a welcome reminder of what we’d built in terms of a multi-city network. It was nice to realize that holidays aren’t always perfect, but the warmth they can inspire among family and friends is what matters. This also marked the debut of Katie’s Unsolicited Advice column — not necessarily what you want to hear, but always what you need to hear.
While the issue didn’t quite live up to its space age cover, we still enjoyed the challenge of looking forward in a more realistic way than the standard New Year’s resolutions. After the election, the hurricane and so many other things it was time to open our eyes to the possibilities of city life. This also marked the official beginning of Katie Prisco-Buxbaum’s column, The New Feminism, a series which we’ve always been extremely proud to publish.
Valentine’s Day in a city can make you feel incredibly lonely or incredibly mushy depending on your situation, so it was heartwarming to see such a mix of approaches to love. The fact that we shot the cover around sunset, right after New York’s only real snowfall of the winter, added an extra layer of romance.
As our 10th and largest issue to date, we unofficially referred to this as Realcity 3.0 — an even more focused take on what we’d been doing over the years. We emphasized new sections, new types of pieces and new attitudes in a way that had been lacking before. It felt like a strange, transitional time for everyone around us and the positive approach we took in embracing that uncertainty was much needed.
We needed some fun at this point. The stress of planning our wedding and worrying about where the website was going had started to take over our lives. It’s good to remind ourselves every now and then that cities aren’t just about working hard and achieving things. We also choose the urban life for the unlimited recreation potential that it provides. This is Katie’s favorite cover due to sheer ridiculousness.
This felt like a good comeback after being gone on our wedding hiatus. We really enjoyed learning new and unexpected things about everyone’s cities. At this point, we’d decided to end the site in September so exploring the concept of neighborhoods — something we’d always been interested in — felt like a good step toward fulfilling our overall mission.
The end of summer always has a sense of melancholy about it, but also one of relief. Everyone looks forward to the freedom of these few months with the wide-eyed optimism seen in our Fun Issue, yet is also ready to get back to reality by the time September rolls around. These pieces did a nice job of capturing that and were a good way to close out the season before ramping up for our final installment.
Our final installment is also our most ambitious, with pieces from all six cities. The Swoboda Factor returns with a farewell note, The Wandering Brooklynite settles down, Katie P.B. looks at the future of feminism, Katie R. offers one last piece of advice and much more. Never before has our team analyzed the boundaries of their realities so thoroughly.