I honestly don't remember when I started reading Creative Loafing, though it must have been around the time I got my driver's license. That's when the paper first became useful to me, a suburban teenager in search of the tools for navigating the city's music scene – both its all-ages shows and the ones I tried to sneak in to. The paper introduced me to the Somber Reptile and International Ballroom, the Point and the Masquerade, Fantasyland Records and Wax 'n' Facts. It was the guidebook for those who hoped to escape the homogeny of strip malls and chain restaurants and high school life in general.
Over the years, the paper became useful in other ways. I began to soak up the Best of Atlanta issue, which revealed other worlds within the city that I'd never had the occasion to enter: the political scene, the arts circles, the better restaurants. By the time I was 22 and writing crime stories for the Macon Telegraph, I started to view Creative Loafing as still something else: an avenue for exploring the deeper meaning of social issues. Within a few years, I began to search for a publication that would grant me the space to tell in-depth and longer-form stories. I wanted to work for a paper whose ideals and aspirations matched my own. Creative Loafing was a natural fit.
All of this is to say that I came of age with the paper. Its sensibilities made journalism seem ... relevant. I might have learned the basics of the trade at UGA's J-school and cut my reporter's teeth at the Telegraph, but Creative Loafing ultimately allowed me to relate to readers in a way I couldn't before, to find a voice that served both of us, to be part of something that was smart and cool and important. At the risk of sounding hokey, I consider it a badge of honor to work here – even when I have to explain to out-of-towners what we are ("You know, the Village Voice of the South"), or when I find myself repeating the paper's name to a confused source in New York or L.A. ("Not Creative Living, Creative Loafing. Yes, Loafing.")
I came to work here at the start of a new decade, a decade that has proved immensely rewarding – and increasingly challenging. The '00s saw some of the best work Creative Loafing has ever produced. In that time, the paper earned dozens of state and national prizes: James Beard Foundation Awards, Association of Food Journalists Awards, Society of Professional Journalists Awards, Association of Alternative Newsweeklies Awards, Livingston Award nominations, and recognition for several staffers as the Atlanta Press Club's Journalist of the Year.
The '00s also saw the implosion of print journalism, and it hit Creative Loafing hard. As you probably noticed, the paper has significantly fewer pages than it did even two years ago, and the staff has gotten much, much smaller. You also might have heard that Creative Loafing Inc. filed for, and emerged from, Chapter 11 bankruptcy. As a result, we're under new – and, by all accounts, improved – ownership.
Now I find myself at the start of another decade and, as of last week, sitting in the editor's seat. I'm surrounded by people who share my passion, a staff that's enthusiastic and opinionated and smart as hell. It's been a hard couple of years for us, but also a time of innovation and camaraderie. And we're about to put ourselves – and Creative Loafing – to the ultimate test. We are going to try to rebuild this publication in a time of widespread doubt about the survival of newspapers.
I know Creative Loafing won't appeal to suburban teenagers in quite the same way it did to me when I was one. Back then, there was no Yelp or Citysearch or Craigslist or Wikipedia or Twitter or Facebook. Nor will the Loaf be quite what it was when I came to work here in 2000.
But here's the good news: The paper will be reinvented. You will see changes soon. They won't be overnight, but they're coming. You will see some of what was lost – deep-digging investigative stories, longer-form narratives, and in-depth profiles. You will see some of what you've been waiting for – a better website, stronger presence in the community, and beefed-up coverage of concerts and events. And you'll see some of what you – heck, even us – would have never expected from Creative Loafing.
I can't wait.
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