Critical Moment: A Look Back


Editor’s Note: What follows is a loose recounting of Critical Moment’s history by an original collective member, his personal experience working on the paper and the issues they focused on. Much has changed since our humble beginnings in 2003, but the ideological agenda remains the same: “for social justice, diversity, and humanity; against oppression, exploitation, and exclusion.” A special tenth-anniversary release party will be taking place Thursday October 3rd at 1515 Broadway Cafe in Downtown Detroit at 7pm. We invite all readers, supporters and not-so-supporters of Critical Moment to join us in our celebration.

By Mike Medow

Critical Moment was started in 2003 in Ann Arbor by University of Michigan graduate students who were connected through their involvement in campus organizing efforts including opposition to the U.S. war on Iraq, Palestine solidarity, economic justice, LGBT activism, and the Graduate Employees Organization. While it was started by grad students, the founding group made an immediate effort to outreach to undergrads and Ann Arbor community members. This outreach was successful and we ended up with was an editorial collective that was a refreshing mix of campus and community, graduate and undergraduate.

Critical Moment was founded as “Moment Magazine.” The name was changed by issue 6 as we had realized that that was the name of a Jewish-American culture magazine. I was a member of the editorial collective from issue 4 through issue 20-something.

I got involved after Max Sussman joined the collective. Max and I were both working on Michigan Indymedia, which was an open publishing activist news website, connected to the global Indymedia network. Jenny Lee (currently at Allied Media Projects) was also involved with Indymedia. We were all trying to do as much radical independent media work as possible, including radio (Black Box Radio), event production (the Rad Art Collective), the Indymedia website, and traveling to anti-war and anti-corporate globalization protests around the country to do on-the-ground coverage. Getting involved with the Critical Moment newspaper was part of the whole experience. There were many people involved in Critical Moment over the years, and if you go through back issues the editorial collective members are listed in each issue.

Critical Moment was started with an unapologetic radical politics, and it was non-sectarian, organized initially under the big wordy ideological umbrella of “for social justice, diversity, and humanity; against oppression, exploitation, and exclusion.” The editorial collective would meet at various cafes and offices. We made a point of not meeting on U-M campus buildings so as to try to be more inclusive of people not affiliated with the university. I think that at some point we registered as a student group and got some money that way, but we also funded the paper through selling advertisements and taking donations. Eric Lormand, after he ceased publishing the Agenda alternatively monthly in Ann Arbor, for several issues made a generous donation to Critical Moment to offset printing costs.

As a participant in the collective, I developed my thinking through the political conversation and debate around the content of each issue. I also learned to be a better writer and editor of others’ work which is a skill that has carried forward in everything I’ve done since CM, especially in my current role running communications for Allied Media Projects. It was also a great experience working on a project that required a production schedule, making a budget and raising funds for operational expenses, and creating content guidelines. We never used outside designers, so members of the collective had to learn how to use Adobe CS1, which was released the same year Critical Moment was founded.

Members of the editorial collective contributed content but we also received a good number of submissions from outside. We would put up flyers and circulate emails with the call for submissions. We would compile all submissions into a single compilation document prior to review meetings. We also would republish articles from other publications (this was generally with permission). Today, that seems like a waste of paper, but ten years ago republishing made some amount of sense as social media had not yet made link sharing so easy. When Critical Moment was founded there was no Facebook, no Twitter, and WordPress was just getting started.

We went through a phase of doing theme issues, but eventually the work of coming up with a theme and appropriate content became tiresome. Environmental justice, Palestine, education, sex (yes, that happened), and the 2004 presidential elections were some of the issue themes. In general the content spanned the whole gamut from anti-war, to global economics, prisons, civil liberties, racial and gender justice, labor, the crisis of anti-trans violence, and we also published poetry and short stories. This was all during the Bush presidency, and politically everything felt absolutely terrible all the time and Critical Moment was an outlet for expressing opposition. We did an “Activist Calendar” in each issue. The letter from the editors was always one of the more difficult pieces of content as the whole collective needed to consent to what was being said here on behalf of the whole group.

We started published at Grand Blanc Printing because it was union and we never had enough money for delivery so we would drive out there and weigh down our car with bundles and bundles of print. Collective members often had the burden of storing these bundles at their apartment and I remember their hallways being stacked high with papers.

As people graduated, the editorial collective started to diminish and when I moved to Detroit in 2005 I wanted to keep working on the paper so I put out a call to start a collective in Detroit. About 10 people came to that first meeting which was held in the space that is now The Hub in the CCNDC building. Eventually the Ann Arbor collective dissolved, and then I stopped working on Critical Moment as I got busy with other projects.

It’s very impressive that the paper is still around, that an all-volunteer collective has survived several rounds of transition, and I love that Critical Moment has moved from being somewhat all-over-the place in terms of the content to becoming more firmly grounded in the place and politics of Detroit.

Mike Meadow is a DJ and Communications Coordinator for Allied Media Projects.