My first day as Skyway News editor was Sept. 10, 2001. The next morning, after dropping my kids at daycare, I watched the World Trade Center burn on my tiny black-and-white office TV. One day, you’re thrilled to finally edit your own newspaper; the next day, you’re in fear, with a staff looking to you for guidance.
As it turned out, Skyway News would be fine; Terry and Janis had cleverly bought a worn-out brand just as the Downtown residential community was exploding. The condo market roared and kept roaring as Downtown passed 20,000, then 30,000 people. We published a condo map because I couldn’t keep all the new buildings straight; the rechristened Downtown Journal was packed with developer ads.
Even 20 years later, people compliment me on my tenure at “the Journals,” as they came to be known. (I soon edited the Southwest Journal as well.) But I was lucky; the acquisition meant the Journals had their biggest reporting staff during my time — experienced pros like Scott Russell and Rich Ryan and barely-out-of-college go-getters like Sarah McKenzie and Robyn Repya. Together with managing editor Sue Rich and veteran reporters Michael Metzger, Kevin Featherly and others, we could cover the neighborhoods and City Hall full time. It was a dream for a Minneapolis geek like me and for the Journals’ civic-minded readers.
Small-town newspapering — and that’s really what this was — meant showing up, especially before blogging quotas and page views were much of a thing.
It was such a pleasure to give Russell, an affable but indefatigable bulldog, time to detail campaign-donor links between the Park Board’s attorney and the board members who hired him. That story won a statewide public service award against Minnesota’s biggest dailies (not the Journal’s first, by the way!). I was tickled to see McKenzie and Repya come back with development scoops gleaned from endless neighborhood association evening meet- ings. Featherly and Metzger could craft amazing people stories just walking out the door and applying their writerly styles; Ryan did the same with his photos. Sue Rich was such a bubbly, insistent underboss, always finding unique angles and pushing us to be less conventional.
Did we get yelled at? We got yelled at. By elected officials, who thought they could put one over on the kids yet ended up caught like Scooby Doo villains. By developers, who assumed the chummy Skyway News ways were still operative, not quite realizing that they needed us at that moment more than we needed them. Occasionally by readers, including some fooled by our “Slyway News” April Fools issues. (The Park Board was not happy with the several calls it got about our story announcing toll gates on lake paths. #SorryNotSorry.)
Anyone who knows Terry knows he’s a super-salesman and not one to let the business aspect of an editorial decision go uncommented upon — especially after we left our cozy single-story LynLake building for swank Downtown digs. But when a longtime advertiser pulled his ads during the same-sex marriage debate because we put kissing local lesbians on the cover, I got 100% backing from him and Janis. I cut my teeth on the alt-weeklies, and I appreciated the freedom to push the Journals even further into investigations and controversies (minus the swear words).
I left at the end of 2005, burned out by something relatively new in Journal World: budget cuts. What I now call the “first” condo boom had crested, and though we didn’t quite realize it on 9/11, the ensuing recession was the beginning of an inexorable weakening of local independent retail, our advertising lifeblood. Throw in the general move from print to digital advertising, and every editor after me had to deal with fewer resources. For 15 years, I’ve been amazed at their creativity in keeping you informed. I hope readers realize just how hard everyone has worked to make the Southwest Journal a paper you’re sad to lose.