By Katie Reich
Carrboro Commons Staff Writer
Without regard to the standards of conventional magazines, The Sun, a locally published national magazine, has been producing its ad-free publication for more than 35 years, and its readership continues to grow.
“Personal. Political. Provocative. Ad-free.” These four words from The Sun’s Web site sum it up completely. It’s more than the ad-free policy of The Sun that sets it apart from other magazines.
Krista Bremer, The Sun’s associate publisher from Carrboro, said that the magazine “unpack[s] this whole different reality that’s not seen in mainstream media.”
The Sun, now releasing issue 399, is read by people all around the world. It has more than 70,000 subscribers and receives about 1,000 submissions per month.
Since 1974, The Sun has been compiled, designed and published from its office at 107 Roberson St. The first issue consisted of 200 copies handed out for free by editor and founder, Sy Safransky from Carrboro.
“In terms of small magazines, it’s really been sort of a miracle,” Safransky said.
Since the magazine does not sell advertisements, The Sun has survived solely on support from its loyal readers through donations and subscription purchases. Bremer said Safransky envisioned a magazine as an intimate conversation between the reader and writer. “He wanted to create a sacred space … with no interruptions,” Bremer said.
Despite the growth in readership, the intention and themes of each publication have not changed dramatically.
The magazine avoids flashy graphics, prints only black and white photos, relies on the submissions of its readers, various authors and poets and has “writers willing to take risks,” said Bremer.
According to Bremer, “Each issue includes an interview with a maverick thinker.”
Safransky said that if someone is mainstream, their thoughts are already out in the open. He wants to feature people “who have something different and meaningful to say.”
Other staple features of the magazine include “Sunbeams,” a final page of quotes relative to the theme of that particular issue, and “Readers Write,” a section that allows readers to submit responses about a common theme.
Bremer said that it was the “Readers Write” section of the magazine that first drew her to The Sun. She believes that many readers who write to The Sun would not consider themselves writers, but they all have a story to tell.
“I’m interested in the common view of life rich in texture, authentic and faithful to this mysterious existence,” said Safransky.
Apart from the monthly magazine, The Sun will introduce its newest book April 1: “The Mysterious Life of the Heart.”
According to Tim McKee, The Sun’s managing editor from Bynum, the book is a collection of works once published in The Sun that involve romantic love. Unlike many mainstream magazines, The Sun honors “what some people consider to be dark,” Safransky said.
And this perspective refers to all aspects of the human experience.
“Romantic love is very complicated,” said McKee. “Many stories get stuck on the sugary sweet part … but we respect love so much we feel that we owe love a true picture.”
The stories, essays and poems were contributed from authors across the nation and include a work from Bremer and Lou Lipsitz, a former UNC-Chapel Hill political science professor.
McKee says that through these works, the reader will feel “elation and devastation and everything in between.”
Even though the magazine is growing on a national level, Bremer said that Weaver Street Market is one of the highest selling locations for the magazine.
According to Bremer, there is a “definite intersection between progressive politics in Carrboro and progressive politics in the magazine.”
McKee sees this similarity as well and said that both the magazine and the Carrboro community have similar views on the political and social spectrum.
However, despite the fact that five staff members live in Carrboro and the magazine office borders the Carrboro community, McKee says that the content of the magazine is not specifically centered on this area or even North Carolina in general.
“Our outlook is human,” said McKee.
The Sun prefers to avoid taking the local perspective of things and chooses the human perspective instead.
“I prefer that [The Sun] spoke to people, to common humanity,” said Safransky.
Locally The Sun can be found at Weaver Street Market, Internationalist Books & Community Center on Franklin Street, Chatham County Marketplace, Whole Foods and The Bookshop, Inc. on Franklin Street.