The phone call lasted no more than three minutes. The job — editor at Folio Weekly, a publication for which I have great reverence — was offered and accepted within the first 20 seconds. I missed a good portion of the details that followed, as my head began to spin. Though I would eventually let the pride in my proverbial cup creep toward the rim before letting a few fluid ounces spilleth over (just for the homeys), the writer in me was already moving a mile a minute, trying to wrap my head around something I couldn’t yet articulate. It was that word, reverence. Almost instinctively, I had trouble wearing it out; a bit like arriving at a party overdressed.
As the new editor of this publication, I owe you, the reader, an introduction of some kind. Over the course of the next few issues, I imagine this will be a place that you’ll learn plenty of boring details about me (perhaps more than you care to know). So, as a way of establishing some common ground for a relationship that I hope will eventually blossom, I thought, instead of blowing my whole load, I’d share with you how I came to know this publication: The idea being, you know Folio Weekly, I know Folio Weekly, we should hang out.
As someone who attended college toward the latter half of the Aughts, my awarenesses — social, political, and self — took root during a complicated and chaotic period of national and international drama: The fiasco in Iraq, Hurricane Katrina, economic catastrophe, a historic presidential race in 2008, all covered by a 24-hour news cycle which seemed a constant exercise in the extraneous and the sensational.
Through the noise, there were voices of reason. Nicholas Kristof’s dispatches from the Sudan made me wonder why we couldn’t do more for countries in distress, while Tom Ricks’ reporting from Iraq served as a dire warning about international meddling.
But more impactful for me at that particular time in my life was Jon Stewart’s skewering of the news media. As I watched Stewart, and later Stephen Colbert, I was captivated by the way they used humor, specifically satire, to speak truth to power, find clarity in darkness, and hold the actions of those in power up to the light, in case it might reveal them undeserving of their post.
In many ways, these comedians’ brands of irreverence for traditional seats of power in America earned them reverence from their fans and even — in “Papa Bear” Bill O’Reilly’s case — their targets.
It was during those same years of scholastic self-discovery that Folio Weekly popped up on my radar. Anne Schindler was the editor and, in my eyes, she shared Stewart and Colbert’s default position, especially when it came to her treatment of establishment structures in Northeast Florida. The writing in Folio Weekly was always sharp and witty, sometimes controversial, but always challenging and always thought-provoking. During a very influential time in my life, Folio Weekly represented the highest standard locally for integrity and sophistication, peppered with the perfect amount of flippancy.
This dance between reverence and irreverence is what got my head spinning.
As editor, I’ll be tasked with honoring the mission of a publication for which many have an authentic reverence. And a big part of the fabric of that mission is the readers’ expectation of, when necessary, the appropriate amount of irreverence in the face of power.
I’ve got my work cut out for me.
The next couple of months represent the possibility for big changes in Northeast Florida. Municipal elections are under way and by the time you read this, the primary races will have been decided. Our next city government will have to make decisions with far-reaching implications — concerning our natural resources, our economic health, equal rights for all of our citizens, and the happiness of our billionaires.
Already we’ve seen the promotion of a satan-repelling guidebook, a verbal and physical altercation, as well as fabricated accusations of assault — and that’s just in one city council race.
This is to say, the coming months are likely to be ripe for the kind of irreverent harpooning to which readers of this publication have grown accustomed.
Luckily for us all, irreverence is just a small part of Folio Weekly’s mission. Our A&E editor, Dan Brown, has made this magazine a fascinating resource for entertainment in the immediate, but also a reliable place to learn when and where you can be entertained in the future. Our writers-at-large — Derek Kinner, Susan Cooper Eastman, among others — are out and about collecting stories all over Northeast Florida. A.G. Gancarski, our political columnist, will continue his dispatches from the darkest reaches of Florida public affairs. Bite Club, News of the Weird, This Modern World, Merl Reagle’s crossword, Freewill Astrology and, of course, the I Saw You section, are all here to stay. And rest assured my looking good is entirely dependent on senior editor and badass to the nth degree, Marlene Dryden.
So what the hell do you need me for?
As editor, I’ll add what I hope you find to be a unique perspective and voice to a range of newsworthy topics. However, I am not the voice of Folio Weekly. That distinction belongs to you, the reader. More important than any identity I’ve attached to this magazine in the paragraphs above is this publication’s commitment to giving a voice to the voiceless. Past editors, including Anne Schindler and Jeff Billman, set the bar high, no doubt, and they left a template for allowing those voices to be heard.
Our readership is diverse and spread beyond Jacksonville’s nearly 900 square miles. Northeast Florida is bigger than downtown development. It’s bigger than the port, or the shipyards, or Shad Khan, or his comically large mustache. And no matter how much ground I try to cover, I’ll never collect enough stories for this magazine to adequately represent this city.
I need your help.
What’s happening in your neck of the woods? Email me at the address at the end of this letter. Got a story idea? I want to hear from you. Are you a writer? Pitch me something. Post something on the magazine’s Facebook page. I’m on Twitter, so Tweet me (as the kids say).
Which brings me to the only promise I feel comfortable making. One that if, when my time is up here at Folio Weekly and I’ve failed at everything, I know I can keep.
As editor, I’m here to unlock and open the door for you, and then get the hell out of the way. This is your magazine.
I promise to always keep my door open.