With an uncertain reopening, Salem’s events magazine ponders its future

Copies of Press Play Salem, which hasn’t printed in more than a year because of event cancelations. (Courtesy/ Carlee Wright)

It’s been more than one year since issues of Press Play Salem have dotted coffee shops and bars offering residents a one-stop source for concerts, art shows and theater. 

With all of the events that would normally be included in the free magazine canceled because of Covid restrictions, Carlee Wright, the magazine’s creator and publisher, hasn’t put out an issue since last winter. But with Covid cases declining, vaccinations on the rise and restrictions being loosened, Wright is weighing putting out a summer issue.

But whether she does depends on if there will be enough events happening to justify putting out an events-centered magazine. She’s closely watching what restrictions will be in place and how that will impact events.

Several headlining events in Salem, like the Salem Art Fair, have already announced they will move online, while others like World Beat Festival, have decided to cancel outright.

For Wright to put out an issue for June/July, she said she would have to have content done by the end of April.

“It’s hard to write stories of ‘here’s what’s happening’ when people can’t do events. So much is in flux,” Wright said. “This is why it’s kind of like, I just keep watching, seeing who’s able to open.”

She’s hoping as the weather gets warmer and more outdoor activities are planned, she’ll have content to fill a magazine. Plus, she’s been gathering ideas for stories that aren’t event related.

Wright wants the magazine to be printed (though there is a website), which means people have to be comfortable picking something up from a stack and taking it home.

Press Play’s last print issue was Feb/March 2020. It included the cover headline of “3.14 Pi(e) Time,” a play on International Pi Day with a cover story on Salem’s pizza scene.  

From the grab-and-go slice to urban eateries encouraging a culinary experience of unique flavor combinations, Salem’s pizza scene offers a grand variety that incites innumerable opinions, too,” read a summary of the story.

By the time she was planning for the next issue, events started getting canceled.

“Okay pull that story and that story and that story,” Wright recalled her grim editorial decision-making.

When she’s putting together the magazine, Wright said she has to weigh the cost to print 5,000 copies and pay for content. She wants to put something out that will be beneficial and interest people.

There have been many times over the past year where Wright will watch Covid restriction levels change and think, “Maybe we can come back in two months. Hmm no. Yeah, we’ll wait a little longer.”

Wright said for larger events it comes down to the financial commitments involved: “It’s like if it has a potential of being canceled, they can’t necessarily take the financial chance on it.”

Arts organizations have been dealt a withering blow from the pandemic, losing out on revenue from canceled events and reduced donations.

Through the magazine, Wright wants to keep people engaged in the arts in Salem. She’s confident people will eventually venture back out and will need to a source to find out where to go.

“For some of the stuff it’s going to be, like, if you build it, they will come,” she said. “They’ll show up, because we are social beings and we do want to have community and engagement and go out.”

Have a tip? Contact reporter Saphara Harrell at 503-549-6250, [email protected]

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