Reprinted from the September 2020 issue of Columbus Monthly

One of the great joys of working at a city magazine is the variety of subjects to cover. At Columbus Monthly, we don’t rule out any idea, as long as it has a Central Ohio connection. It just needs to be interesting, relevant, impactful and unique. It also doesn’t hurt if Les Wexner or Jeni Britton Bauer are involved.

This month’s selection of features is a case in point. The lineup includes stories about fashion, struggling arts organizations and the opioid epidemic in Licking County—all expertly told but vastly different in tone, format, subject matter and storytelling approach. From gloss to grit, from power to poverty, it all has a place in our magazine.

For our annual Fall Fashion cover story, Home & Style editor Sherry Beck Paprocki and freelance writer Jillian Span Hofbauer shifted from the usual elevated attire to more casual looks, reflecting our new stay-at-home existence. Meanwhile, the pandemic also is at the heart of our Fall Arts Guide, coordinated by senior editor Suzanne Goldsmith. As we do every year, we feature a listing of events—many of which are virtual this season—but we also expanded the guide to include a meatier piece about the coronavirus’ economic devastation on local arts groups.

Finally, our third feature focuses on Trish Perry, a Newark woman who spends every Saturday morning on a street corner in her Licking County community, distributing “harm-reduction kits” to people who use drugs. Influenced by her own son’s heroin addiction, Trish passes out clean needles to drug users, hoping to keep them safe, even though she could be risking arrest because local health officials aren’t sanctioning her effort.

I’m happy with this disparate mix of stories—it’s what we strive for every month, after all—but I was also surprised to realize as we put this issue to bed in early August that a common thread runs through all the pieces. Each is about crisis, something we all can appreciate these days. I don’t know about you, but I’ve hit the ennui stage of the pandemic, worn down by social distancing, unpaid furloughs and the frustrating realization that the end of our health catastrophe is nowhere in sight.

But the feature stories in this month’s issue also point to another way forward. Over the past five months, I’ve drawn inspiration from the dedication and resolve of my colleagues, and this month, it’s from Sherry and Jill for adapting our annual fashion franchise to fit our current situation. I’m also inspired by the innovative musicians, artists and cultural organizations featured in our arts guide that are finding new ways to connect with audiences, as well as Trish Perry and her new way of thinking about addiction.

Trish and other harm-reduction activists talk about “meeting people where they’re at, but not leaving them there.” Their focus is the opioid epidemic, of course, but in these pandemic times, that mindset could help us all.