Reflections

Monika Bauerlein
(Monika Bauerlein has been managing editor of City Pagessince 1990.)

What I know so far: That it's possible to do what you love and love what you do. That the bad guys don't always win. That sometimes they do. That the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. That sometimes a first draft is better. That all the whining about people not wanting to read is crap. That everyone has a story, though not everyone tells it. That all the whining about the state of journalism is just so many excuses from people who have no interest in trying. That it's about asking questions and poking holes and deflating every balloon. That if you smell it, feel it, have it in your gut, it's probably there. That people can tell when you're bullshitting.

That lies are just stories in disguise. That there's no greater rush than a whiff of truth. That a second's instinct is worth more than three weeks of research. That three weeks of research can uncover most secrets. That some secrets will stay. That music, as Miles Davis says, is in the spaces between the notes. That "family" is more than the people you're related to. That you're never as smart as you think you are. That resentment is a waste of time, but fury bears fruit. That the real heroes are never sung.

 

David Carr
(David Carr, who edited the Twin Cities Readerfrom 1993 till 1995, is editor of the Washington, D.C., weekly City Paper.)

In the early Eighties, I would be chewing through the darkest part of the night on the sixth floor of the 600 Building on First Avenue, ostensibly crashing on a deadline for the Twin Cities Reader. There'd be some writing, much swizzling of beverages copped from the display window of the Haskell's on the main floor, and, if colleagues were about, abundant trash talk about Those Rat Bastards Across the Street.

Who did they think they are, those punks at City Pages? We were clearly the dominant paper and preoccupied conversations in every part of the community--except music, and who gave a damn about that? And yet, as I'd work later and later into the night, I'd look down on the third floor of the Butler building, and peering through the window I'd see Tony Schmitz or Phil Weiss busting their asses deep into the night. What kept them going? Did they know, somewhere in their incredibly large craniums, that 20 years later the floor I worked on would be section 222 of Target Center and the paper I worked for would end up existing only in the archives of the Minneapolis Public Library?

Back then it was a death match, with City Pages' Tom Bartel vs. the Reader's Mark Hopp. They were both mean as hell, but Bartel competed as if he'd been dispatched as one of Beelzebub's own Hounds of Hell. He leveraged his paper's street cred on music and found a smarty-pants editor named Steve Perry who had a mountainous chip on his shoulder and a raw, visceral hatred of The Man to go with it. Years later, when City Pages emerged from Stern's foray into the market as the far more viable title, Perry's ugly superciliousness in victory obscured the fact that he and Bartel did an amazing thing. Nowhere else in the nation did an upstart alternative overtake the dominant paper. While the Reader was busy relocating to the suburbs and resting on nonexistent laurels (remember "A Civilized Alternative"?), Perry found and cleared a path for the likes of Will Hermes, Monika Bauerlein, Jennifer Vogel, Britt Robson, Terri Sutton, and a legion of other talented writers who were more than happy to join him and Bartel in their endless jihad against the Reader.

After my tour as a writer in the Eighties, I returned in 1993 as editor of the Reader to lock horns anew with Perry et al. I never had so much fun in my life. The newspaper war is a relic of a different media age, but nobody told us that. We'd jog to the rack to see what Those Rat Bastards had come up with on a particular week: a need to keep cognitive dissonance at bay left us focused on the lefty cant of our competition (there was plenty of it) and obscured our view of their news enterprise (there was plenty more of that).

City Pages held a rigorous, steadfast mirror to all aspects of Twin Cities culture, arts, and politics, business, and nonprofits. And if they canonized Ron Edwards along the way, who could blame them? Edwards can talk more shit than a landlord on rent day.

The Reader, in spite of hosting a like corps of talented writers, attenuated through years of neglect from out-of-town nincompoops who had no idea what to do with the paper. Stern came in, bought both, closed the Reader, and in time Bartel and Perry were gone as well. Once the sting of the loss faded--I felt it even though I was 1,000 miles away--I was thrilled that some of the bylines I loved sharing an office with showed up in City Pages, which was bulked up and invigorated by monopoly.

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