Folio Weekly's New Editor Enamored of Alts' Role
Jeffrey Billman: 'Altweeklies by their nature exist to give voice to the voiceless '
Folio Weekly didn’t have to look far to find its next editor. Jeffrey Billman was senior writer and news editor at Orlando Weekly.
Billman has a history of working for alternative newsweeklies. He was news editor at Philadelphia City Paper and has worked as a freelancer. He was also senior editor and writer at-large at Philadelphia Magazine, and has won awards for investigative reporting, feature writing and religion writing.
Billman and his wife, Adri — along with their two dogs, Belle and Sebastian (yes, after the band) — will move to Northeast Florida as soon as they can find a place to live and get their Orlando house on the market.
Billman, who plans to start work sometime in December, invites Folio Weekly readers to get in touch with him on Twitter (@jeffreybillman) and Facebook (facebook.com/jeffreycbillman), or email him (firstname.lastname@example.org), especially if they have tips on where he should live and what he should do when he arrives.
Folio Weekly asked Billman a few questions to help readers get to know him.
Where are you from originally?
I was born and raised in West Palm Beach, moved to Orlando for college, and ended up staying for a decade, then ended up in Philly, came back to Orlando for year and now Jacksonville.
Where did you go to school?
I earned both my bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Central Florida, in journalism and political science/public policy analysis, respectively.
Have you been to Northeast Florida before accepting this job? What do you know about the area?
Truth be told, I have a lot to learn — which is always, to my mind, one of the best parts of moving somewhere new. I’ve driven through Jax on several occasions, and spent a little bit of time here reporting on stories, but there is much to discover.
What interested you about Folio Weekly?
For starters, I’ve been looking for an opportunity to get back into the altweekly world for some time now, especially one within a few hours’ drive of our family, so this was fortuitous in that sense. More importantly, Folio has a great tradition of producing vital and important journalism — something I noticed in the years I spent working in Orlando — which is exciting to be a part of.
What do you want to do with Folio Weekly?
A friend once quipped that a good altweekly should feel like the bastard child of a seedy bar and an erudite library — and that’s about as good a description as I’ve heard of this business. And that’s the kind of ethos I want us to have: smart, literary, fun, maybe a little tipsy. And of course, altweeklies by their nature exist to give voice to the voiceless and champion the best parts of their community, and that’s what I hope to continue doing here.
Why have you worked for alternative weeklies? Why are they important?
I started in the alts because that’s where I was offered my first job, when I was a sophomore in college. I stayed because I became enamored of them — of the vital role they play in their communities, of the forum they offer for longform, hard-hitting investigative journalism, of the fascinating people I met wherever I went. Alts, at their best, do the kind of reporting that the dailies and other mainstream outlets ignore: They’re aggressive, they’re tenacious, they’re authoritative. Cities need that to thrive.