Dan Sinker in front of Two Pillars, a public artwork by Columbia art and design professor Friedhard Kiekeben. Photo: Sarah McKemie (B.F.A. '08).
In 1994, a 19-year-old Dan Sinker banded together with a few others and founded Punk Planet, an alternative music, literary, and culture magazine. The magazine made a national impact, helping to establish a cultural voice for Chicago. But last year, financial pressures forced the dissolution of Punk Planet, and Sinker found himself at Stanford University, on a Knight Fellowship of Journalism. “As things got worse and worse financially at the magazine, suddenly the possibility of the fellowship emerged,” says Sinker. “It wasn’t just a great opportunity, it felt like the only opportunity.”
Supported by the fellowship, Sinker spent the year studying concepts for publishing on mobile phones. His fellow fellows represented Salt Lake City to Zimbabwe, but most worked in traditional media outlets. “At the start I was a bit of an exotic flower,” he says. “It ended up that the things we shared—a belief in the power of journalism and of storytelling, a strong sense of shared values and outrage, and a critical eye—far outweighed the things we didn't.”
His return to Chicago is also a return to his role as publisher of Independent’s Day Media, with efforts shifted toward the still-kicking Punk Planet book line. However, his focus is on his new faculty position at Columbia College, charged with bringing a digital media and entrepreneurial journalism perspective to the department. “A more abstract thing I’ve taken from the year is once again having reinforced that I’m still learning too,” he says. “Doing Punk Planet for 13 years, you get very used to the small world of punk rock and underground culture. The fellowship reminded me just how huge the world actually is. And I loved it.”
Jesse Raub (B.A. ’06) is a graduate of Columbia College Chicago’s Fiction Writing program. He is currently an editor for Punknews.org, associate editor for The Ryder Magazine, staff writer for Ghettoblaster Magazine, and editor/publisher for his own website, BitterPress.com