Let’s get one somewhat confusing detail out of the way first: The first issue of The Pulse carried the cover date of Dec. 3, 2003, and the remaining issues of that month comprised Volume 1, cleverly allowing the paper to point to an entire volume of issues even as it crossed over into 2004 and Volume 2 just a few weeks later. So, technically we’re lighting the candles on this cake 11 months too early. But then again, when Zach Cooper and Michael Kull launched the paper, any number of publishing perils confronted them—not least of which was the money for Issue No. 2—and they quite likely never considered the long-term viability of their new alternative newsweekly. Because of this, it’s become a Pulse tradition to celebrate early lest those same perils—some of them still very real—conspire to thwart our forward progress. Besides, Cooper, Kull & Co., like many young alt-weekly mavericks, never quibbled over the details when a party was at stake. Some things never change, so we’re seizing the moment again to pause in the first month of our 10th anniversary to look back at the paper’s beginnings and all that’s transpired since those heady days in the fall of 2003.
As some of you might have heard, Pulse co-founder and publisher Zach Cooper left the paper over the holidays. Since then, a “parting shot” letter from our former leader, along with my own tribute to Cooper’s many fine attributes, appeared in the first issue of this, Volume 10, of The Pulse. “Life in the Noog” columnist Chuck Crowder and former editor (now Nooga.com columnist) Bill Colrus have also written about Cooper and the paper with pointed interest, given the anniversary. Suffice it to say that once over the initial shock, we’ve returned to semi-normal stability (the only stability we know) and continue to press forward with gusto and zest into our 10th year and second decade as Chattanooga’s Weekly Alternative. But because the paper is so inextricably linked to Zach’s persona and his own psyche, he even happily contributed to this feature, drafting a fun timeline of the paper to accompany remembrances by Colrus (the paper’s first editor, who served from its 2003 inception to 2007) and Janis Hashe (2007-2011).
When I assumed the mantle of editor in January 2012, I did so in stealth mode. I’d been hired as the paper’s art director six months prior, and while I’m no stranger to straddling both design and editorial responsibilities, the masthead had thinned to the point that placing my name alongside multiple titles seemed a bit silly, if not egotistical. Besides, I needed that first year to find my footing, plot a path and consult Cooper on the wheels I was certain to reinvent without slow, steady contemplation. In my zeal to overachieve I have stumbled, even fallen at times, but only in an attempt to re-energize the paper after a momentary setback.
Along the way, I’ve worked in relative secrecy, writing and designing with equal amounts of passion and fervor, summoning all my experience and skills into what I have referred to as my “dream job.” At 48, and after more than 25 years in the business—a large chunk of which has been spent at alt-weeklies in other cities—I was not at first prepared to devote myself so thoroughly to another newspaper. I’d scaled the ranks, rose to a top editing position in California and enjoyed the hard-earned fruits of management at a large daily paper—until the hammer fell all too quickly as the Great Recession took hold.
I understand now (again) that fate and destiny have played a huge role in my career, hopscotching as I have from one city and paper to the next, immensely enjoying each experience and (so I thought) leaving those papers in better shape than before I arrived. (Did I mention ego?) Thankfully, while somewhat less important that I imagined, my former editors and colleagues have assured me of my place in the evolution of their papers. But I digress.