Fifteen years ago this week I began working on a plan to start a new weekly newspaper in Greater Cincinnati. Tom Schiff agreed to fund my business plan, and I had three months to figure out how to staff, sell ads, produce, print and distribute the paper and to project revenue and expenses for the first five to seven years.
Dan Bockrath helped me that summer from California, where he worked for the San Diego Reader, and then moved to Cincinnati on Labor Day weekend.
I know the suspense is killing you, but the plan came together, and so did CityBeat. Volume 1 Issue 1 hit the streets in November 1994.
I won’t bore you by reminiscing about funny incidents, odd characters and important stories over the past 15 years. I’ll save that column for our 15th anniversary issue.
I’ll also skip a discussion of What It All Means because I’m probably not the best judge. I’d need more space than this column allows to recount what these past 15 years have meant to me personally.
What I have been thinking about is how CityBeat’s mission has remained remarkably consistent over the years and how that mission both attracted and was shaped by talented people.
The organization has been malleable and moldable and yet has retained its basic shape over the 15 years.
Dan and I always envisioned CityBeat as a virtual meeting place for like-minded people, the conduit for connecting people who perhaps imagined themselves as the only liberal, alternative, tattooed, gay, urban-dwelling, arts-loving, local-band-playing and/or organic-food-eating individuals in all of ultra-conservative Greater Cincinnati. CityBeat would embrace change and diversity instead of fearing them as the city’s traditional mainstream media did.
We hoped to offer an escape once a week to local arts, music, film, food and political subcultures where people were building grassroots communities and doing amazing work. We’d help spread the word when interesting new businesses opened and cool new festivals started.
When CityBeat debuted in 1994, the city was flooded with print publications. We joined The Cincinnati Post, The Enquirer, two business weeklies, a strong Downtowner weekly, Cincinnati Magazine and the alt weekly paper I left, Everybody’s News — but newsprint was cheap and we thought we’d found a unique niche to fill.
All these years later, CityBeat still fills a unique niche here. Many of our competitors are gone, and print publications struggle against the perception that they’re old-fashioned if not obsolete.
We still connect like-minded people, but we also do it on our Web site, in our e-mail newsletters and at our events. As advertisers migrate to these other areas, the weekly paper isn’t the only way to interact with CityBeat any more.
Fifteen years ago we didn’t have a Facebook page or a Twitter account. We didn’t even have a Web site. But we had a mission. It’s been a good companion on the journey.
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