Everyone said we’d be daft to build a castle on the swamp
A lot of people are startled that, in this internet age, I’d want to start newspaper. We — me and most of the contributors in these pages — did this once before, exactly 10 years ago, and went through a somewhat impressive, somewhat halting four-year run. From March 2003 to March 2007 we put out nearly 200 weekly issues under two newspaper names and owned by at least four different companies.
One of the things we tell advertisers is that we reach a younger crowd that is just establishing its brand loyalties. The age at which you pick your bank, your favorite beer, your car, your home loan — almost everything — is in your 20s and 30s.
Most of the investors in this paper are products of that very philosophy: people who met F5 when they were getting out of college and have been waiting for something to come along and fill the void that we left. It hasn’t really happened. Not in print and not online. But now that they’re old enough and wealthy enough, they want it back.
We aren’t like other newspapers. We engage our readers. We’ll meet them half way. We won’t clog your driveway with unread editions — pick one up if you want it, don’t if you don’t. As long as people leave the house looking for something to do, we’ll have readers. The day everyone decides to buy a six-pack and stay at home to watch some Netflix will mean trouble for more than just the newspaper industry. But until then, as long as people are out and being visceral and social, we’ll be a part of their lives.
We’re reusing our favorite name, F5, because, well, we loved it. We loved it, our readers loved it, and any attempt to come up with a better name just fell flat. Well, not all of them fell flat, but not all of them were usable.
The great Jake Euker pleaded for calling it “Back to You, Bob” (which was one of Jedd Beaudoin’s suggestions). No, I don’t really know what that meant, either, but somehow I feel that if we went with it things would probably be alright. “A rose by any other name” and all.
You may remember Jake for his movie reviews or his sometimes-too-real parodies of the Eagle’s Opinion Line or his frantic and impossible column, “I Don’t Sleep.” Jake died Aug. 3 of complications from pneumonia. He was 50 years old — in the same way that Peter Pan is 111.
Jake cannot be replaced.
In a way, nothing we did before can be replaced or even replicated. It may look very similar, but we’re all very different people now.
When I started F5 originally, I had just turned 30. I was single, drove a convertible year-round and figured that the best way to get things done was to keep the peddle pressed to the floor at all times.
Now, at 40 — with a wife, an almost-2-year-old son and another son due in two months — I’ve traded in the convertible for a small SUV and learned a thing or two about fuel efficiency. I actually get tired after working for 18 hours.
Michael Carmody, our original managing editor 10 years ago, has followed his dream of making crazy donuts for a living. You may know his work from his super-fine coffee and donut shop, The Donut Whole. Michael has a young son now, too, who has “added untold new dimensions of awesome” to Michael’s life. The birth of his son inspired him to adopt a very physically healthy regime that would have been unidentifiable to his own self a decade ago. Who opens a donut shop and then looses 50 pounds?
Jedd Beaudoin, our musical encyclopedia, frantic wordsmith and managing editor while we were The Wichita City Paper has been the host of KMUW’s “Strange Currency” for the entire time we’ve been away, six years now. You can catch it from 8-10 p.m. Monday through Saturday on 89.1-FM. He also has been the host of the local music TV show “Wichita Sessions,” which has had a four-season run on KPTS, Ch. 8.
Our former intern, Kate Hutchens, will be back writing some stories — though she’s Kate Clause now. After her time with F5 she went to intern for KMUW then moved to Portland, Ore., to become Oregon Public Broadcasting’s radio operations coordinator. Earlier this year she and her husband moved back to Wichita so that she could take the spot as host of KMUW’s Morning Edition.
Elizabeth Stevenson is in the running for the award for least-changed, and that’s really just because of the lack of children, moving or donning a public persona other than the one she already had. She’s still living in the Fisch Haus in the winters and summering in her native Canada, but she’s putting her degree in architecture to use for employment now instead of just selling bottles of wine part time. But at least she still drinks wine.
Bill Jenkins has retired from full-time teaching (history and humanities) and has even moved almost a block away from his old house in College Hill. But he may actually be least changed in that he still mostly does what he used to do — pontificate and travel, plus going to Winfield and the Iron Horse in El Dorado — though less of it and slower, which is what happens to you if you’re lucky.
Movie critic Jason Bailey won’t be coming back to F5 this time. Not because he doesn’t want to, but, you know, life. He left Wichita for New York almost seven years ago, and he wrote movie reviews for us from the Big Apple while he was studying cultural reporting and criticism at NYU. He now writes about film for The Atlantic and just took a full time job as Film Editor at Flavorpill; he also just finished writing his first book, “Pulp Fiction: The Complete Story of Quentin Tarantino’s Masterpiece.” He and his wife Rebekah are expecting their first child in August. He assures us that it will take after its father and be bald.
And, while not technically ever a staff writer for F5, we should also take a moment to note the passing of Hibbard Davis. Hibbard died in November of 2011. He was our perennial author of letters to the editor. He wrote one a week, originally typed out on a typewriter and hand delivered. Epic, legendary and Sisyphean letters. Once he got email, around the middle of 2005, he started writing two a week, and started using the pen name “Buster Deducere.” After F5 closed, he kept sending me his letters to the editor for years. When he died, I compiled his letters to the editor for his family. Two things surprised me about that task: One, in my head, I used to think he wrote all of our letters to the editor. I was shocked to realize how very thick and diverse our letters to the editor section was, even in the era of blogs. Two, there were only nine issues of F5 that didn’t have letters from Hibbard, and all of them were from the time before he got email and we probably just didn’t have time to retype them.
Even our syndicated content creators — and there’s really not many — have been through a lot of change.
Two that we won’t be carrying are Chuck Shepherd’s “News of the Weird” and Andy Borowitz’s “Borowitz Report.” Chuck had done “News of the Weird” for 25 years, but health problems have forced him to step back from the column. Andy Borowitz, on the other hand, was someone we syndicated early and directly through Andy. Not long after we started running his column, he was picked up by Creator’s Syndicate, which was cool. But just a few months ago his column was bought up outright by The New Yorker, and the acquisition more than doubled the New Yorker’s traffic. Well, we were there first, but it’s not available to syndicate anymore.
Matt Gaffney — creator of the Jonesin’ Crossword — has been making many, many crosswords without us. He’s been carried in the New York Times, the Washington Post, Wall Street Journal and Slate, to name a few. He was also just awarded the “Constructor of the Year” at the 2012 Orcas. (It’s like an Academy Award for crossword makers.)
Gustavo Arellano, author of “¡Ask A Mexican!” — while still writing Ask A Mexican and penning several books — is now the editor in chief of the OC Weekly, an alternative newspaper in Orange County, Calif. (It has a circulation about the same size as the Eagle.) Gustavo has also wracked up numerous national awards his column since it appeared in the Wichita City Paper six years ago, he has also appeared on TV shows such as The Today Show, Nightline and The Colbert Report.
And, of course, we have scads of friends who have been integral to our work over the years — too many to name them all with any sort of depth. My wife, for instance, will point out that she was our news reporter, and I’ve hardly mentioned her. It’s not because I don’t love her, I assure you. I’m just running out of space.
We will have scads more people join us in this new adventure. Writers, photographers, artists, copy editors, sales people — all of them working because of the love of this paper, the culture it celebrates and the people that it reaches.