Our Town: Game Plan: Scalawag Magazine

“I’m looking forward to shifting from planning to doing in the new year.”

–Evan Walker-Wells, co-founder, Scalawag magazine

by Jessie Ammons
photograph by Madeline Gray

Scalawag takes nothing at face value, including its own success. The nonprofit politics and culture magazine based in Durham is approaching its third anniversary in the new year, and it has already earned recognition from national outlets including The New York Times. The early momentum is but motivation for improvement, says co-founder Evan Walker-Wells. In December, the staff will retreat for a weekend of reflection and planning. “We want to build a more engaged and accountable relationship to the communities we serve,” says Walker-Wells.

Walker-Wells is the magazine’s only full-time employee, working from Durham to serve communities throughout the Southeast. He relies on a few part-time contributors in the Triangle, co-founder and current law student Jesse Williams, and more than 250 freelance writers and photographers spread out from rural Mississippi and Kentucky to urban Atlanta. “The most important and most meaningful contributions to what we’ve done, in my opinion, have come from having this broad team.”

Among the contributions are in-depth coverage of race relations in the South and community-focused reporting from the region’s most rural areas. Both will continue, Walker-Wells says, as well as a new initiative: “Southern joy … telling the stories of artists and other people who are doing cool and interesting works in the South. We want to make sure we get at the diversity of the region, and understand the reasons why people choose to stay in the South.”

The end goal, Walker-Wells says, is to create a quarterly product that educates, questions, challenges, and ultimately empowers. “We hope to have a role in moving Southern culture forward: focusing on solutions and the work people are doing already and every day.” With goal in mind, come January, the team will be off and running. Walker-Wells will be the leader of the pack. “I enjoy the planning aspect,” he says with a laugh, “I like the execution a lot better.”