Hyphen 101

November 23, 2004

What is Hyphen?

Hyphen is a nonprofit news and culture magazine covering Asian America. It's run completely by volunteers with major decisions made collectively and democratically. The hundreds of hours spent by writers, artists, editors, marketers, publicists, circulation managers, envelope stuffers, designers, web gurus, bloggers, grant writers and everyone else are all unpaid. It's a labor of love.

Does the "hyphen" stand for "Asian (hyphen) American?"

No! We do not hyphenate Asian American, or any other ethnic minority. The hyphen has been a source of great controversy in Asian America and many people have fought hard to get it removed.

We chose the title Hyphen for a lot of reasons. For one, it symbolizes the controversy of ethnic identity and representation in America --the issues that have galvanized the community in the past, and asks an silent question: what will we be fighting for in the future?

Secondly, we liked the idea of a hyphen as a connector. We'd like our magazine to serve as a bridge between the diverse populations included in the term "Asian American" and also Asian America and the rest of the word. We'd also like to be a link between people and organizations and ideas.

Who is Asian American? Am I?

Before Hyphen even had a name, we had long discussions on this question. "Asia" encompasses a huge geographical region, from Cambodia to Bangladesh to Turkmenistan to Indonesia. To top it off, Pacific Islanders are often lumped in there, too.

Then there's the unusual cases: I was once approached by a Russian immigrant to the U.S. who argued that because of his hometown's proximity to China, he was culturally Asian American. A staffer has a friend who's white, but was born and raised in China.

In our discussions, we've never drawn boundaries around who is Asian and who is not. If someone genuinely identifies as Asian American, we're not going to get in a slap-fight with them about it. (We've got other things to worry about, quite frankly.) Identity is a thorny issue, and our discussions raised a lot more questions than we ever answered.

So then, who does Hyphen cover?

We cover people of Asian heritage who live in the U.S., Asian Americans who live abroad, and the issues and events that affect them.

What is Hyphen's (un)official food?

spam and kimchee. Even for those of us who refuse to eat it.

Why is Hyphen a nonprofit?

None of us are out to get rich --or even get a salary, at this point. Hyphen's goals are to contribute to the community, educate and increase awareness, and provide coverage and analysis of issues that is unencumbered by corporate interests or heavy-handed investors. Being a nonprofit makes that clear. It also allows us to accept tax-deductible donations, apply for grants, and beg money from friends and relatives.

Do all of Hyphen staffers have day jobs?

Yes, except the people in school, "between jobs", or working nights.

How does Hyphen raise money?

Mostly through events--release parties, speed dating, an upcoming giftwrap booth for the holidays, etc. Magazine sales do not cover the costs of printing, and we are still working on increasing our ad sales.

Why doesn't Hyphen write this story about grapefruit sellers in Shanghai or telemarketing in Bombay?

Those stories are in Asia. We write about Asian America. There's lots of great stories out there that we don't cover --we can't do everything.

Does your fiscal sponsor fund Hyphen?

No. Our fiscal sponsor, currently Independent Arts and Media, gives us the nonprofit (501(c)3) status that allows us to accept donations. We are responsible for raising our own budget.

How can I help?

Lots of ways! You can subscribe! You can donate money, office supplies, office space, computer equipment, a car, printing press time, or anything else a magazine might need.

Or you can get involved --we need people to help out with every part of the magazine, from people who stuff envelopes or take minutes or deal with City Hall to writers, illustrators, editors, and marketing directors. We like people who can roll up their sleeves right away and take responsibility, even for a small task.

Will I be interested in Hyphen if I'm not Asian American?

We certainly hope so. Through our news, profiles, arts, analysis, fun and frivolity, we strive to reveal the many faces of Asian America --things that break down the stereotypes and challenge mainstream images. Well-told stories have a universal human appeal, and that is the standard that we set for ourselves.

Why are all of the Hyphen staffers so good looking?

That's a mystery to us, too. I guess we're just lucky.




How fitting (oh, the irony). There's a Google ad for interracial dating--"hundreds of thousands" of Asian Americans for your interracial dating pleasure.
Thanks for that timely handbook, Jenn! One last FAQ:HOW IS THE MAGAZINE STAFF ORGANIZED?Hyphen Magazine is committed to its status as an independent media outlet. We consider ourselves an alternative to corporate media in several ways: in the fact that we focus on a population that is largely ignored in mainstream media; in that we are a non-profit and therefore motivated not by market share but by community need; and finally in that our staff is organized into a collective, rather than a hierarchy. Our "team leaders" (Publisher, Editor in Chief and Art Director) represent the magazine in public, but decisions are made collectively by the staff. This can lead to inefficiency at times, but we put up with it in the service of creating a new organizational model for running a magazine. This model serves our vision and goals and may yet (maybe only in our dreams) mitigate the overwhelming prevalence of the corporate style of organizing.
WHERE IS YOUR OFFICE?We don't have a physical office. We work in a virtual, web-based one.