With new digital outlets consistently finding elbowroom, and legacy publications still trying to saturate the attention economy with fresh stories every hour, our current journalism landscape is highly amenable to freelancers. However, most writers still grapple with the dual senses of isolation and opaqueness, especially without an office space or 9-5 stability. Part-coworking space, part-creative collective, Brooklyn’s Study Hall is aiming to create a sense of stability and community in the borough and beyond.
Founded in October 2015 by writers Kyle Chayka (The Verge, The Atlantic) and Peter Moskowitz (The New York Times, Vice), Study Hall offers 24/7 access for members to its location in Gowanus. Memberships come in three tiers: full-time, part-time (three days per week), and a third option to use the space on weekends only.
After making the decision to freelance, Chayka, who focuses heavily on the influence of technology on culture, and Moskowitz, whose writing is more policy-centric, both experienced the dauntingness of an unpredictable schedule. Eventually, they realized they wanted to design a coworking space that catered to writers, as opposed to the startup scene. Chayka made a Medium post announcing their intentions, which spread through the tendrils of journalism Twitter, and after receiving widespread interest they found their first handful of members.
“Even the name, Study Hall, implies that this is not like WeWork or a tech incubator-style thing. It feels more informal, it feels like you can drop in and chat and have a coffee,” Moskowitz explained. “It’s a space that feels personal, where you know the people there more than it being some kind of impersonal office.”
Chayka and Moskowitz bought all the furniture and organized the space themselves, giving it a purposeful yet cozy vibe that encourages not only productivity but also conversation between members. Besides unlimited free coffee, one of the most exciting aspects of Study Hall is the emphasis its founders are putting on connecting people in this typically solitary profession.
In April, they launched the Study Hall Digest, a subscription listserv that includes a weekly newsletter on freelance and full-time opportunities, as well as the founders’s takes on the latest industry news. It’s also a space for members to send questions on everything from pitching etiquette to payment and contract details to the best ways to handle the interminable wait after emailing an editor.
“I’ve benefitted most from getting an inside look into how other freelancers work,” said Cameron Tung, who has written for The New Yorker and Slate, and first found Study Hall through Chayka’s Twitter. “It’s been very interesting, as well as comforting, to see that a lot of really talented and successful writers are extemporizing in much the same way I am.”
In addition to the listserv, Chayka and Moskowitz have helped foster community through events at the Study Hall space and in other locations around the city, including the Roxy Hotel, where they recently held a sold-out talk with GQ’s Taffy Brodesser-Akner.
“Freelancing is super isolated by nature, and I think if we can find a way to share more information and work together more, and not feel so competitive with each other, then everyone is going to benefit in the end,” Chayka explained. “I think all these things help Peter and I as much as anyone.”
As Study Hall continues to expand and develop as a multi-faceted creative enterprise, the goal is to continue being a resource that not only makes freelancing less nomadic, but also to inspire creativity and collaboration.
“I think we want to use all the structures that we’re building to produce more cool stuff, so whether that’s like a newsletter, or an event series in our office or somewhere else, or a print magazine, or whatever,” said Chayka. “We want to both start these projects ourselves and help other people get them done with the structures that we’ve created.”
And if having a broader network, more opportunities, and an enticing writing spot that’s not also your bedroom isn’t enough to make you consider Study Hall, just think about how much you’ll save on coffee.
Photos by Eric Masters