Cooper and Kull gambled on their belief that the city would support a paper with “intelligent writing.” They had enough money to keep it going for three months when they started in 2003. Luckily, they found a number of kindred spirits willing to support them. Tim Kelly (the president of Kelly Auto Group) and a number of other local (mostly small) business owners saw the paper’s potential and bought the advertising that sustained them while they found their audience.
Initially it was a struggle. “Our format was familiar to our readers and to the advertisers we were targeting,” Cooper said, “but the voice was quite different.” They assumed that their readers were smart, well-informed people who would be willing to read what they and their contributors had to say even if they didn’t always agree with it. “It’s a little bit of give-and-take with our readers,” said Cooper, who realized even then that people might sometimes get mad at some of the pieces published in the paper. He thought then—and still does today—that it’s important for the paper to take a stand.
Their confidence in what people are now calling the “can-do” city has been borne out. Kull left the paper in 2008 when the partners opted to sell it to Brewer Broadcasting. Cooper stayed on as editor-in-chief and publisher. Despite the change in ownership, Cooper still thinks of the paper as an independent entity. “Having the same mindset as the person who owns a small storefront on Main Street is exactly how I think about the paper,” he said.
Two years ago Bill Ramsey, a graphic designer and journalist with more than 25 years of daily and weekly newspaper experience, joined The Pulse as creative director and became editor at the beginning of this year. Ramsey embodies the attitude Cooper has always embraced. “In the year and a half I’ve been editor,” he told me recently, “I’ve turned the guns on local politicians and media, calling them out for their inadequacies, sometimes using language that makes some people uncomfortable.”
While he keeps Cooper grounded, he also regularly challenges him to maintain the ideals with which he started the paper. “I personally have upset people several times with things I’ve published—not only subjects, but our owners—mostly by telling some notable people to take a jump.”
They both work at least 50 or 60 hours a week, and both have trouble separating their personal and professional lives, but Ramsey’s long history helps keep them focused. “We’re not always fair and balanced, but that’s not our role,” he said. “The best alt-weeklies report with a flair and style that a certain part of the city’s culture ‘gets,’ and we do it on a shoestring, but still manage to tap the city’s best writers and photographers.”
After 10 years in business the paper is stronger than ever, said Cooper. His long shot has paid off, and he still considers himself “lucky to be able to do this week in and week out”—and now he’s ready to celebrate.
The Pulse 10th Anniversary Concert starring The Whigs with The Bohannons, St. Paul & The Broken Bones and Browan Lollar
9 p.m. • Thursday, Dec. 13
Rhythm & Brews • 221 Market St.