Pulse anniversary old new covers
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.
When I first came to The Pulse, my passion for alternative newsweeklies was revived along with my (sometimes unfortunate) propensity to take on everything at once. But the moment demanded that aggressive posture and I have rarely slowed the pace.
Why? When I first met Zach, I met a kindred spirit, someone whose vision matched my own and whose affection and concern for his hometown I admired, as my own quickly returning sense of pride in a city I had left behind 30 years before surfaced. The Pulse was born of the city’s renaissance, sought to catch and capture that wave and distill its machinations in music, arts, culture and politics in its pages with all the best hallmarks of the alt-weeklies Cooper and Kull admired most. Zach and Bill Colrus had boarded that ship briefly before, but its hull was not sturdy enough for the choppy seas it confronted. The Pulse was, and has since built its reputation as the state’s fourth star in Tennessee’s alt-weekly universe, joining The Memphis Flyer, the Nashville Scene and the Metro Pulse in Knoxville as Chattanooga’s true alternative. That legacy, combined with my newfound respect and fascination with the remarkable, ongoing revival of my hometown convinced me every effort, every long, lonely hour I spent was worth the price—and it still is.
So, here we are, beginning a new year, a new decade of existence and reviewing a remarkable 10 years of “Greatest Hits.” With the first issue of this year, I came out of the closet and added the title of editor to that of creative director in front of my name. With Zach’s departure, I felt readers needed a responsible to party to laud or blame for the paper’s direction and coverage. And while I possess little of Cooper’s smooth style and in-depth knowledge of modern Chattanooga and that of his paper, I’ve learned enough to earn his blessing. I hope that counts for something.
Paging through back issues of the slowly yellowing archives of The Pulse, I felt something like a new in-law married into an eccentric, brilliant family. I grimaced at its shortfalls, smiled at its achievements and marveled again at the idea that a group of young, inspired and dedicated individuals would and could produce a weekly journal in an era when the odds of its survival are much diminished. The Pulse is very much a family, and in 10 years I hope to have earned my place at the reunion.