Reflections

Today when I look at City Pages, I see a struggle to create a well-rounded and responsible, if still eccentric, identity as top dog. What wasted limbs can be strengthened now that the paper is not pushing against the Reader's mushier fare? What are the limits of freedom before the corporate hand slaps it silly? I should mention that City Pages is still printing whatever I throw at it--although what I'm throwing has changed, as the paper has: fewer cluster "fuck" bombs, more questions, less certainty. I've learned something about inviting the subject and the reader (urban and suburban) inside an article, rather than just trying to blow shit up. I think the paper in general has begun capturing the spirits of its place (people, plants, buildings) better than ever before.

Some readers may mourn the loss of City Pages' outspoken political edge; I'm not unsympathetic. But it seems to me obvious that the political analyses editor Steve Perry encouraged at the paper remain bedrock in much of the current paper, from Rob Nelson's striking film reviews to Dara Moskowitz's penetrating food columns. It only appears not-in-your-face if you're taking it for granted (by the looks of the Letters column, City Pages is attracting quite a few readers who aren't yet aware that entertainment is never simply entertainment).

Beyond this foundation, the greatest pleasure about the paper right now is its unpredictability. As an avid reader for 12 years and counting, I can't express how wonderful it is not to know what to expect. Those who were taught to expect nervy, fists-up attitude from City Pages might do well to track down this city's new weekly, Pulse. Or, better, start your own. Because the Cities always benefit from a discontented underdog.

 

Jim Walsh
(Jim Walsh, City Pages' music editor from 1989 to 1993, is the pop music columnist for the St. Paul Pioneer Press.)

I love newspapers. I love seeing them tucked under people's arms on the street. I love seeing noses buried in them on buses, and used ones scattered in coffee shops. I love how they feel and sound; the clank of the single-copy box, the fwump of delivery against the doorstep in the morning. I love how old ones smell. I even love them as litter, kindling, rainwear, and, yes, fish-wrap. And while this romance has been on for quiet some time, I know exactly when I fell in love with newspapers for good: while standing in front of the boards in the City Pages offices every Tuesday afternoon for almost four years in the early Nineties.

The boards were where all the pages were clipped up on a wall for inspection before being sent off to the printing press in Shakopee on Tuesday nights. I can still hear the murmur of my fellow workers lolling around those boards, proofreading stories, cutlines, and headlines. Nowadays as I write, there are certain words I can't use without thinking about the energy the boards threw off, and some of my former City Pages colleagues. We constantly bugged each other for better words, for definitions, for the perfect words. When we found them, as it approached four o'clock on Tuesdays, we'd sign off on our pages and get on to the next week's issue. That was the single most thrilling office moment of the week: The paper was almost to bed, the Tuesday brainstorming meeting-slash-encounter group session was pending, and for the most part, everyone was exhausted but excited. We were a small staff, ink in our blood, and even though nobody ever said it out loud, what we were trying to do was change the world. And maybe spread a little love.

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