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2012: What Surprised Me

Twists & turns, noteworthy stories


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In general, 2012 did not flip my lid. I mostly expected what I got. But still, there were the occasional twists and turns.

For example, I was surprised when, in February, Dan Nailen, our newly minted managing editor, resigned to accept a job at the University of Utah College of Business and now serves as freelance culture blogger/commentator. And I was surprised when our publisher of 10 years, Jim Rizzi, left City Weekly in May and moved out of state in September.

I was not all that surprised when our founder, John Saltas, reclaimed the mantle of publisher, nor was I surprised when he named longtime alt-weekly publisher Andy Sutcliffe, who’s been consulting with us for half a year, our general manager a few weeks ago.

I found myself pleasantly surprised two days ago, when our music editor, Austen Diamond, invited me to a screening of Brad Stock’s The Atomic Clock CGI light show at Clark Planetarium. My brain has not been treated to a light show in many years, and they’ve come a long way.

I was surprised that A&E editor Scott Renshaw’s cover story “Funny Business,” written to shed light on the evolving local comedy scene, had the effect of causing some in that industry to lose their sense of humor entirely.

I was surprised that, for reasons governed strictly by Murphy’s Law, an innocent cover story about a former stripper (“Taking It Off” by Carolyn Campbell) would cause pain on so many levels, including e-mails from upset ad reps and attorneys. The Church Lady would no doubt call it God’s wrath. My boss, Mr. Saltas—as I like to refer to him in columns such as these—simply would say he told me so.

I was surprised when ABC4 reporter Chris Vanocur offered to write a personal story for City Weekly about his 30 years on air in our market, a story that would touch on his breaking of the Olympics scandal, his growing respect for Mormons and how, in a strange way, his breaking of the scandal created a steppingstone for Mitt Romney to run for president.

I was surprised—and not in a good way—when ABC 4 laid off Vanocur, and as many as a dozen other staffers, just a week before Christmas.

It is surprising that most Utahns were convinced Romney would win the presidential election, but not surprising when he didn’t. That Eric S. Peterson’s online article on Romney’s acceptance speech (“The Awe and the Awkward of Mitt Romney’s Speech”), with its thousands of page views, became the year’s top-read news blog was also a surprise.

Seeing a man dressed in a goat costume high in the Wasatch Mountains was a damned big surprise for one hunter with a camera. Colin Wolf’s blog (“More on the Rare, Elusive 'Goatman' Near Ogden”) featuring photos of the goatman also garnered thousands of page views.

I was surprised when around 4,500 beer lovers showed up at City Weekly’s Utah Beer Festival at the Gallivan Center. Not only was the turnout in downtown Salt Lake City strong (on a Sunday, no less), but they were happy campers. (So, if you stayed away because we hadn’t worked out the kinks during our early years, it should be safe to return next year).

I find it surprising that our most viewed cover story at CityWeekly.net this year is one from August 2010, Jim Catano’s “Into Hot Water: Utah’s love/hate relationship with its natural hot springs.”

And surprise, surprise: Our most-viewed online Five Spot column of 2012 was one I wrote in November 2008 on Harley-Davidson gallery artist Scott Jacobs.

It may not be that surprising that January’s story about atheists in Provo, titled “Losing Faith,” written by freelancer and former intern Greg Wilcox, was one of our top-viewed cover stories online. But it was surprising (and gratifying) that the Utne Reader wanted to reprint an excerpt from it.

I was surprised Utah lost one of its top First Amendment champions in attorney Brian Barnard this year. In addition to Barnard’s death, a journalism guru was lost in 2012: U of U communications professor Milt Hollstein.

I was surprised that Bill Frost, sans curmudgeonly resistance, agreed to write his first-ever Fall Preview TV Guide this year. (But it was no surprise that readers liked it and picked it up.)

Speaking of pickup, more readers picked up the 2012 Best of Utah than any other issue in my decade at the paper. Readers also picked up the Summer Guide and the Dining Guide at close to the same clip. After special issues, freelancer Jason Stevenson’s story on the “Great Obamacare Scare,” Katharine Biele’s “ALEC Is Coming,” Mike Furness’ “Mormon Masterpiece” and Eric S. Peterson’s “Demogeddon” election guide did very well on our news racks.

Our senior reporter, Stephen Dark, did not so much surprise as he did impress all of us with a series of evocative cover stories, ranging from the treatment of the mentally ill in prison to a questionable audit by the Lieutenant Governor’s Office.

Practically everything Rachel Piper, our new managing editor after Dan Nailen’s departure, does surprises me, and in a good way. She has a scary ability to work hard and deep, while tweeting.

It is also surprising to think how many typos, errors and poorly constructed sentences our fierce copy editor Kolbie Stonehocker and line editor John Paul Brophy have kept from appearing on these pages.

Next year is a “13,” and may yield more surprise quirks than 2012. We’ll see if 13 lives up to its lucky/unlucky reputation.