"Hello, it's me. I've thought about us for a long, long time. Maybe I think too much, but something's wrong. There's something here that doesn't last too long. Maybe I shouldn't think of you as mine."
And so on. Except, I'm not Todd Rundgren (did he have any other songs?) and this isn't exactly a forlorn note to a long-gone lover. Though, in a way, it is. I've always had a real affection for the people who read and support City Weekly. It's all I've done since this paper began as a dinky private club newsletter (most of our readership today doesn't know or care what a private club was, and that's fine), and this week is the anniversary of our very first issue back in 1984. That was long ago, many friends ago, many clubs ago—a time of X-Acto knives, typewriters, Liquid Paper (thank you, mother of Monkee Michael Nesmith for inventing the stuff) and the smell of burning wax.
It was a time when entering the newspaper business bordered on the cost prohibitive; you either had to have lots of money or lots of time. I had neither, but eventually, because I'm not trained to do anything besides tend bar and lay railroad track, time won out. Over the past 33 years, we have printed tens of thousands of pages—many in just black and white—and spent more money than we have made, made more friends than we deserved, comforted less of the afflicted than we wanted to and lost some memorable close friends, associates and former co-workers. I miss them.
But I don't miss everyone. I've fallen for plenty of bad apples. If a con artist created the ideal victim, part of me would be included alongside widowed LDS grandmothers and blue-collar laborers who wear "Make America Great Again" hats. I've been a fool many times over, mostly due to just being a doofus who believes in leprechauns and unicorns. For someone accused of being a "people person" (aka pushover), I'm a horrid manager. My default setting, inherited from the mining culture I grew up in, is "Oh, yeah? Prove it!"
All companies share woeful tales of wrong hires and wrong business decisions. But there was no one to fire me, who harkened the most of both. I reflect on that with weariness since the vast majority of folks who have done business with us or worked for us are of the highest character, but we could never put enough polish on them. Yet I love and respect them all, for their grit and commitment not just to City Weekly, but to you. It's you they care about.
It's an open secret that the newspaper business is a shadow of its former self. It's also likely an open secret that City Weekly suffers, too. Liberal bias is not hurting newspapers as the MAGA hat crowd claims. It's a combination of many things—from classifieds moving online, to more competition of every stripe, to the mobile phone experience, to a belief that social media can actually replace advertising (it can't; it's a picture of an omelet, BFD). Along the way, business owners also settled into the notion that buying customers with digital tools and algorithms is smarter than spending dollars building brand and market share. Try telling that to the brick-and-mortar retailers that abandoned traditional advertising only to lose to bigger players and cheaper prices online.
In the end, papers suffer most from another line from Rundgren's song: "I take for granted that you're always there." Thing is, we might not always be there. We've been taken for granted, and we can't continue to be there unless the math changes. In a full year, less 900 local business purchase ads in City Weekly. That represents our entire operating budget. Yet, we provide a free paper—over 2 million copies printed annually—for people who want and need an outlet like ours. Forget about online; that's always been free. So, if a reader isn't paying for us, and also doesn't support the advertisers who support us, something has to give.
Very soon, we'll introduce a chance for you to help create a prosperous atmosphere in which City Weekly can more effectively write, print and thrive. We are calling our new initiative Press Backers. When you become a Press Backer, your contribution and support dollars will not only help keep the free press alive, but you'll also have a chance at winning lots of Skee-Ball-like prizes every time you contribute. It's either that, or you concede more ground to the wasteland of Twitter and Trump. Your call. Do we matter?
We think so.
I distinctly remember 1984. Back then, there wasn't a big Pride week in Utah. For more than a decade, Pride was gaining its footing. During that time, several publications reporting on issues in the LGBTQ community came and went. Pillar of Salt, if I remember correctly, was one of them. At some point, several prominent members of the local queer community approached us to produce an LGBTQ-themed publication or to otherwise enlist our support of their causes. We didn't have the resources for the first, but the second path was easy since we had always been in that corner. Among our first street-edition issues (with spot color, no less) were stories on two plagues: childhood AIDS and the sinister practice of gay bashing.
I'll always be proud that this publication stood up for a community that didn't have a strong voice back then. We didn't become their voice; they rightfully developed their own, but we've helped to nudge it along. That's what we do. We're not a battleship—we're a spitball. We nudge and annoy, sure. But we also march. We march with many voices.
So, if you see me or any of the City Weekly cohorts at Sunday's parade, make sure to say hi. As Rundgren would say, "It's important to me that you know you are free."