Belligerent Q&A, Vol. IV: Jeff Maisey of Veer Magazine

Despite any impression given by this image's bright lighting, Veer publisher and editor Jeff Maisey is not a being comprised of pure energy and power. Yet. Photo by Kathy Keeney.

Norfolk, Va., publisher, editor and writer Jeff Maisey started Veer Magazine, a monthly alternative publication and website serving the Hampton Roads region, two years ago following the death of PortFolio Weekly.

Veer, while carrying the name of another former local music zine, also carries a bit of the feel of the defunct PortFolio – not to mention some of the pub’s strongest contributors.

An online shell of PortFolio lurched along until December, when a note was posted about what its author insists on calling a “digital double” of the print edition. Saying it don’t make it so. Because nothing says so long alt weekly like a note from a “staff” gutted years earlier, and what appears to be stock art.

At least we’ve got Veer and AltDaily, two alternative outlets with their own voices, rather than an “alternative” published by the dominant media source.

Maisey had edited PortFolio until its demise as a free weekly in early 2009, and quickly put the nuts and bolts in place to launch Veer. Among the Veer contributors who should be familiar to folks around here are Jim Newsom, Leona Baker, Larry Bonko, Kristen de Deyn Kirk, Montague Gammon III, and Patrick Evans-Hylton – not to mention longtime PortFolio editor Tom Robotham, Maisey’s predecessor in that gig.

About a year ago, Maisey told me his research with advertisers showed they would back a version of PortFolio without the political tone for which it was known under Robotham. That said, Veer for some time now has had Robotham batting lead-off with an essay that can be reflective or give the pub a little bite. This month he addresses the tension between those that filled the PortFolio void and the company that created the void in the first place.

This past week, Maisey said he has ideas in the works for more publications. He recently launched Afr-Am, aimed at the local African American community, and more may be on the way – including ideas that sound like they will directly challenge a few pubs produced by Maisey’s old employer. We recently traded emails on Veer, light rail, and the quantification of TV news personality hotness.

Q: Just who do you think you are? Please use three examples in your response.

Today I’m a romantic, smart-ass travel addict in need of a fix. That’s three, right?

Q: Veer is celebrating its second birthday. Given the past struggles of other alternative publications in Hampton Roads, including PortFolio, is wishing you another two years in the print business a blessing or a curse in the internet age?

I hope you wish us more than two additional years. Independently published magazines – and I’m talkin’ PRINT –  in this region are actually flourishing. We are seeing growth and additional opportunities. I launched a new monthly magazine in February geared to the African American community. What’ll we launch next? A weekly business journal, parenting pub or catalog of apartments? Hmmm … stay tuned.

Q: As a musician and longtime music writer, what is it about the local music scene that keeps you from giving up the legwork and just holing up in your abode and letting iTunes do the heavy lifting for you?

A thriving local music scene is essential to the quality of life in any city/region. The more that can be done to bring attention to it…the better. Plus, who doesn’t like reading about themselves?

Q: The Virginian-Pilot’s Deirdre Fernandes recently reported that extending light rail from the Norfolk border to the Oceanfront could run about $807 million. Virginia Beach Mayor Will Sessoms told The Pilot that “sounds like a lot of money” and also “my gut would question whether the ridership would be there to justify the cost.” Set aside troubling implication that the mayor seems to quantify sums with his ear and gives serious consideration to the skepticism of his gastrointestinal tract. Why so much hesitant language at this point? Should we continue to invest in rail given the road and tunnel situation, economic development potential, etc? Or do we need the time out to consider stuff like “rapid transit” buses?

I penned a commentary on this topic in the April 15 issue of Veer and could talk additional hours over a beer on any given afternoon. For any mass transit system to work it needs to be practical and run efficiently, on-time and frequently. Anything less will result in low ridership. Over 50 years ago Norfolk had an electric trolly (light rail) that extended from downtown, down Granby Street and to Ocean View. Many businesses and residential areas were within a few blocks of the rail line.

Given the updated estimate – which will likely go up to $1 billion – for extending light rail from Newtown Road to the Oceanfront, I’d say the numbers aren’t favorable for a city – Virginia Beach – whose residents have been less than enthusiastic overall on the notion. So if Norfolk’s light rail goes no greater distance than it’ll serve this year, I’m less than optimistic about its long term health. Both end-of-the-lines are pedestrian dead zones. Any real ridership will be confined to downtown and maybe as far as the baseball stadium.

But, again, if the train isn’t convenient to my schedule, it might be quicker to just walk to my destination and save the dollar. And I’m an advocate for rail. As for ‘rapid transit buses,’ on a region-wide scale, it’s just not gonna work for the reasons I previously stated. I’d be happy if the NET bus route was extended to 21st Street and Colley Avenue. BUT it needs to operate more frequently and from 8 a.m. to 2:30 a.m. Needs to serve the 9-to-5 workforce as well as diners, bar hoppers, concertgoers and get Ghent dwellers home safely when the Tides go extra innings.

Q: Veer recently named Laila Muhammad the sexiest television newsperson in Hampton Roads. Did you ask Larry Bonko to watch evening TV until he became suitable aroused, or was there some other methodology?

Nearly 10,000 votes were cast online. That’s enough to get someone elected mayor in this town! Some people thought the subject matter was beneath Veer, but the pickup rate was great and we attracted some new readers, who, admittedly, probably watch an unappetizing array of American Idol and Dancing with the Stars. Hopefully, they scanned the other pages within Veer as well.

Q. We’ve covered so much ground here. What else would you like to say?

Good night and good luck!

The new edition hit the stands on Friday. Here’s a link to the places you can pick it up.

By way of belated full disclosure, I used to string for PortFolio and have contributed occasionally to Robotham’s TReehouse Magazine website, including some writing about Veer and AltDaily.

And Maisey and I are both “Survivors of Landmark,” so there’s that. Remember, “SOL” tees are available at this blog’s Merch store.

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