City Paper’s 10th Anniversary Issue

Happy birthday dear City Paper, you feisty little punk

In putting together this 10th anniversary edition, I’ve spent a lot of time lately looking back through the musty stacks of old green-bound volumes, marveling at how much I wrote that first year in operation, laughing with our founding art director over some of those early pulled-from-our-asses covers, reminiscing with old writers, and realizing that I’ve been doing this for 10 long years. I keep waiting for the job to get easier, but it never does.

As with every issue we put on the streets, I wish I’d had more time to work on this one. I caught up with as many old contributors as I could and asked them to write something for the issue. The process has been a lot like rooting around the panty drawer and finding that stack of old love letters. You get that mix of nostalgia and relief. Nostalgia for the you you once were and relief for those days being long gone. Our early years were fun and full of possibility, but man, were they lean and mean. We started the paper with four people — in addition to me, there was our founding publisher and co-owner Noel Mermer, advertising director and co-owner Blair Barna, and graphic designer Andrea Haseley, our first art director who we lured away from Creative Loafing in Savannah.

We were a pretty ballsy crew. We moved here in the middle of the summer from other cities, confident that we could figure out Charleston fast enough to put out an informed and relevant newspaper. We were confronted by skepticism from some, and embraced by others. We relied on our previous experience in the alt-weekly world to establish a newspaper that reflected the city, not so much the people who put it together. I wasn’t interested in writing about myself and my friends. I was curious about Charleston.

The note I wrote in the first issue introduced our mission: “In the weeks ahead you’ll notice other changes to your newspaper. We emphasize that fact because this is your City Paper. One that encompasses everything about Charleston and the Lowcountry — the creative locals, the casually dressed tourists, the vibrant arts community, the excellent restaurants, the local music scene, the Southern culture, the Yankee carpetbaggers, and everything in between. … We look forward to becoming your neighbors, your friends, and your source for information, news, and entertainment.” And then I ended it with a Bartles & James reference. Lame, I know, but the mission I laid out back then has remained with us over the last ten years. And today, we are indeed part of the fabric of this city.

The City Paper is of the moment. Rarely do we stop to look back at what’s happened before, but because it’s our birthday, we’re going to indulge in some self-congratulatory navel-gazing. I hope you don’t mind. I spent some time digging up old contributors — like original music editor Larry Queen, former list bitch and music editor Lorne Chambers, visual arts critic Kristen Rhodes, food writer Molly Goodwin (a.k.a. Lee Jenkins), lifestyle/music columnists Aaron Allen and Mike Saliba, and überintern and current real estate developer Haze McCrary. These are just a handful of the people who have contributed greatly to this newspaper over the years. The ones who have made this paper what it is today. It’s sad to think of those who have moved on, but it’s also exciting to see how the paper has changed and improved over the years.

Throughout this issue, in addition to many pictures of people saluting us by stripping down to their birthday suits, you’ll find essays from those old contributors, reflecting on their time here at the paper and the changes that have been wrought in Charleston. You’ll also find stories from our current writers and staffers, compiling timelines of the big stories of the last 10 years, from news and arts to cuisine, film, and music. We’ve randomly attacked this issue, but it presents a solid picture of what this newspaper is all about — and has been about from the very beginning. So, happy birthday to us, and we hope you can make it to the Windjammer on Wednesday to help us blow out the candles on the biggest birthday cake Charleston has ever seen.

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