When trying to describe what exactly I envision the magazine to be, I often joke with people that I aspire for Belt to be The New Yorker of the Rust Belt (except that I’m not really joking).

By Ed Simon 

What small publication punches that much higher than Belt Magazine does? Operating out of a PO Box and with a shoe-string budget, we publish three times a week with essays, reportage, commentary, and photojournalism from across the wide swath of the region, the only publication in the United States exclusively dedicated to the experience of those in the Industrial Midwest, the Great Lakes Region, the Northern Appalachians, and the Rust Belt. Sometimes our expansiveness makes it hard for Belt to be categorized; our geographical scope goes from the peaks of the Alleghenies to the prairies of Iowa, the shores of Lake Michigan to the hollers of Kentucky. That’s only speaking about the tremendous variety of places which we cover, but we’re just as varied in the genres which we feature, with everything from collaborative investigative journalism to poetry, creative nonfiction to comics. When trying to describe what exactly I envision the magazine to be, I often joke with people that I aspire for Belt to be The New Yorker of the Rust Belt (except that I’m not really joking).

As has been custom for a few years now, our last article of the year is a run-up of our most read stories of the year, starting with number one and going down to number ten. A quick glance at this list should demonstrate exactly what I’m saying about Belt’s variety, because in 2023 we covered everything from efforts at academic unionization to dog racing in West Virginia, fly-fishing in Michigan to avant-garde art in Columbus, Trent Reznor to Gordon Lightfoot. Those are only the stories listed here, elsewhere we sent photojournalists to the East Palestine train derailment, investigators into school libraries to shine a light on censorship, and our former editor Ryan Schnurr to the sites of famous industrial fires as we produced our first podcast Fire! An American Burning. Elsewhere I’ve written that the site is “of the Rust Belt, by the Rust Belt, and for the Rust Belt.” This is something that I firmly believe, that in a region of incredible importance and diversity, it is crucial to have a site which speaks about the Rust Belt and to readers in the Rust Belt, and importantly features voices from the Rust Belt.

All of this is, of course, only made possible through the generous support and contributions of our subscribers and partners. These stories are funded by you, the subscribers, with matching grants from NewsMatch; as well as financial support from the the Ohio Arts Council; Ohio Humanities; the Indiana Humanities Council; the Albert Lepage Center for History in the Public Interest at Vilanova University and the generous contributions of James Babcock. Many of these pieces, and more, can be found in our annual anthology Dispatches from the Rust Belt Vol. VI, featuring essays and commentary from the past year at the magazine. Next year promises even more in the way of stories, ones that I believe will catch the public interest, drive the conversation, and most importantly, be interesting to read.

Trent Reznor’s Conflicted Rust Belt Legacy

By Casey Taylor 


Paradise Lost in Pittsburgh 

By Ed Simon 


The Mystery of the Underwater Crucifix

By Morgan Springer 


Fly-Fishing in Michigan 

By Ed Breen 


The Great Cougar Comeback

By Patrick Shea 


The Cost of Loss at WVU

By Rachel Rosolina 


New York, Los Angeles, Columbus?

By Dana Colecchia Getz


“All-In” – Professors on the Picket Line in Eastern Illinois 

By Camden Burd 


Gordon Lightfoot’s Great Lakes’ Lives 

By Jonathan Dale


Saturday Afternoon at the Last Dog Track in America

By Ashley Stimpson 

Ed Simon is the editor of Belt Magazine.