I first met Zach Cooper in the mid-1990s when we were both on the wait staff at 212 Market Restaurant. We became fast friends and would both eventually join the staff of the short-lived Chattanooga Outlook alternative newsweekly—he worked on the sales side, I was a contributing writer. The paper struggled to keep the lights on, and Zach would often talk about how he’d love to start his own alt-weekly one day. The idea appealed to me, too, but as he and I both left the Outlook to seek other opportunities, the likelihood of that ever happening faded.
In 2003, I had pretty much forgotten about the idea when Zach called to let me know that he and Michael Kull were putting together The Pulse. Zach asked me if I “wanted to do some editing.” I agreed, and days later the three of us met around a table and a legal pad at Rembrandt’s to sketch out what the paper should look like. Eric Jackson, who had been the art director at the Outlook, also joined the team, and we moved into a tiny office (and then a bigger one) at the Small Business Development Center. A couple of years later, aided by a rotating cast of (mostly freelance) writers and artists, a brave pool of advertisers and a growing number of dedicated readers, we moved into Warehouse Row and were soon voted into the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies. We had a tiny budget and a tiny staff, but admittance into AAN—an industry group governed by and comprised of all the papers we’d long admired—meant that we had achieved a certain level of quality in the eyes of our peers. There were many smiles around the office that day.
My memories of my time as editor of The Pulse are filled with flashes of people and laughter and stories. Stories. The biggest memories are of the work. Flipping through the 197 yellowing back issues in my garage, I’m immediately transported back. Countless editorials about city government. Collaborating on April Fool’s issues. Interviewing Ken Burns. And Vanilla Ice. Aaron Mesh writing about both film and local news at a near-genius level. Kelley Walters’ expert food writing. The glorious day when Joe Lance agreed to be a columnist. When John Totten somehow pulled off an enormous interview with Jeff Tweedy of Wilco. Explaining to caller after caller after caller that Max Gerskin was not, in fact, killing cats. Watching (the late) Nathan Bosic fulfill a life’s dream by interviewing (the late) George Carlin. Watching reporter Angela Tant not give an inch in her pursuit of answers. The sheer joy of reading Ernie Paik’s music writing. Hearing Andrew Stegall proudly announce the next successful ad sale. The photo essay that Andy Montgomery and staff photographer David Andrews shot on the night of the city election in 2005. David shooting our first family portrait in the office when my son was just a couple of weeks old. Working with Eric Jackson to put out every issue. Countless people contributing to the paper for little, slow or no money. All the people I met while working there. The support and encouragement of my publishers.
In many ways, we achieved what we set out to do. In other ways, we struggled. But we learned a lot, and I will always look back on my time at The Pulse with great fondness.
Bill Colrus was the editor of The Pulse from 2003 to 2007. He writes for Nooga.com and BillColrus.com.