This is the first column I’ve written since Zach Cooper stepped down as publisher of The Pulse. Even though my presence in The Pulse offices is as uncommon as free donuts, I feel like someone’s missing over there. I know those few who do hold down a desk are saddened by his darkened office. And they should be.
Zach isn’t just a good friend and a great publisher, but he also has a magnetism about him that makes you want to jump on board for the good ideas, and step away if he displays any inkling of skepticism. He’s not a writer, a designer, a salesman or janitor—and he doesn’t claim to be any one of those. He’s the glue. He’s the cheerleader. He’s the “face” of the paper. So while The Pulse will chug along as usual—even with more of my useless blathering—it has lost a big part of its soul.
As you pick up this paper and casually flip through it’s pages, there are two key people you have to thank for its existence. One is Jim Brewer, who purchased The Pulse a few years ago in order to keep it alive. He saw how people love this tabloid creature for whatever reason and knew that Chattanooga—as a highly progressive city—needed The Pulse on its newsstands. He blew fresh wind into its sails and has stuck by it through thick and thin (mainly thin) despite every business instinct that might have pulled him in the other direction. Without Jim (and our advertisers, of course), we might not still have The Pulse. However, without the second person we need to thank—Zach Cooper—there wouldn’t have been a Pulse in the first place.
Ten years ago, as they gently stepped over the remains of several failed previous attempts by others, Zach and Michael Kull thought that Chattanooga needed a good weekly paper and set out to create one, a paper that had room to explore the things that make Chattanooga cool and a publication that is also unafraid to blow the whistle on those things about our town that just plain suck.
Zach Cooper has always been the type of dude who soaks up brilliantly cool things like an unquenchable sponge. He’s always the first to see the new local band, experience the new local exhibit, eat at the new local restaurant or know what anyone should do around town on any night in question. He knows what’s what. But he also knows what’s not. Zach will be the first person to point the bullshit finger at anything that stinks around town without fear or favor. He knows that not all news is good, and sometimes the pressure of print can call attention to things that need a little fixing. But you can only do that for so long—every damn week—before you have to sit down and rest. And after 10 years, it was time for Zach to leave the soapbox to someone else.
I get it. I’ve dropped back and punted several times in my career. Sometimes change is the best direction, even when you’re not sure where you’re headed. Cleansing the palette, re-energizing and taking on something new with the same fervor you first applied to the last project can do wonders for you.
Ten years is a long time to do anything, but for the publisher of an alt-weekly paper it can seem like a lifetime. Despite popular belief, it’s highly unlikely you’ll strike it rich publishing a weekly paper in a city of our size. The operating costs are high and the support, while spirited, is limited. There is tremendous satisfaction knowing that you’re producing a product that is as beloved in this town as fireworks, until the grand finale. Then all you have left is smoky sky and a lawn chair to carry home. But if I know Zach, wherever he lands will be the scene of the next big explosion. And he’ll be the one lighting the fuse.
Chuck Crowder is a local writer and man about town. His opinions are his own.