Where are you / is TIS based?
At that point, I just wanted the first issue out. Little did I know that "no fanfare or production values" would become the general philosophy of the zine.
My whole life is like that. Ignorance, smug self-certainty, half-assed execution.
So, I've never had much trouble with motivation. The zine itself has gone from almost total obscurity to having a pretty wide distribution (back in its heyday when both Tower Magazines and Desert Moon Periodicals carried TIS) to its kind of semi-obscurity today, where a lot of people know of the zine but the actual paper readership is modest.
I think if I ever hit a point where absolutely *no one* is reading the zine, I might fold the tent up. But as long as I have some folks interested, I'll likely continue. Maybe as a digital-only kind of thing.
The paper format is still the best. This might change. I like e-readers and I like the idea of eBooks, as long as they are DRM free and once they get into a standard format (in other words, fuck proprietary file formats). For the moment, paper still rules. It's the only way to guarantee 100% accessibility (b/c not everyone has an e-reader but everyone has eyes, natch) and the only way to guarantee that the zine you bought at Quimbys in 1998 is still usable, because your paper copy will never run out of battery life or crash and wipe your hard drive or any shit like that.
It could, of course, fall in the tub or catch on fire. This I stipulate.
Some folks wax on poetically about the hand-crafting of a zine, but I don't. Making a zine was always and remains a fucking chore. If I could hire some neighborhood kids to collate, fold, staple, and stuff these motherfuckers for pennies, I would. I would lock them in a room with unsafe working conditions and put on a sash that says EVIL CAPITALIST OPPRESSOR and laugh and laugh as they begged me for food and water.
"Keeping folding!" I'd shout. "If you get 500 done by midnight you each get to look at a glass of cool water."
And the children would cheer.
I shrug at that stuff. I never messed with advertising precisely because I didn't want to have to worry over anything like that. For me, the zine was always meant to be a fun way to get writing out into the world. But then this is why I will die poor and miserable, because I've been losing money on the zine since day one. It never paid for itself. And who cares?
As for a moral line, eh, I don't worry about shit like that. Fake stuff gets found out and left behind. I let the universe sort stuff like that out. More and more these days I think people feel that as long as they are entertained, they don't care about issues like whether you're getting paid to write something with a certain slant. Used to be people got up in arms when artists "sold out" etc, but today advertising is seen as a vector to promote yourself. The culture has changed.
But, of course, I've used this trick my whole life: My zine is a personal project meant for fun, so if I get anything wrong, if I am woefully misinformed or just plain stupid on a subject, I just laugh and say "Zine!" and I am excused. This allows me to say the most fantastic things and get away with it.
If you want your zine or DIY project to be taken seriously as journalism, you have to be up front about it and adhere to some basic principles. You have to own your ignorance and mistakes. If a zine does that, sure, it can be journalism.
That's personal, though. I am a word guy, not an image guy. I have seen some gloriously beautiful zines, visually speaking, in my time. It's just I value words over images and design. Part of this is my inability to create something visually beautiful. Since I can't do it, I don't value it.
I do get quite a lot of letters from prisoners as a result of giving TIS away free to prisoners. This has been universally entertaining, I have to admit. And I wouldn't have done it otherwise.