Lucky 13

Welcome to this week’s Reno News & Review.

This week is an anniversary. On Nov. 17, 1993, the first issue of Nevada Weekly was published. That was a great day for journalism. At least I thought so. I remember I was taking an American Literature class up at Hilltop High, and I took the still-damp newspaper into my professor’s office. Honestly (and geekily), I was so proud, I could barely tell him why I was showing it to him.

There were only eight staff members on that first masthead: Editor Mike Norris, Arts and Entertainment Editor Larry Henry, Business Manager Bill Martin, Operations Director Connie Phillis, Advertising Director Robin Pape, Creative Director Tracy Panzarella, Production Manager Marcel Levy and Calendar Editor D. Brian Burghart (that’s me, $25 bucks a week). I sporadically keep in touch with most of these people, although Marcel (who’s momentarily kicking our ass over on the RG-J’s Web site) is the only one I see more than every five years or so. Our kids go to the same school. “Kids.” If you only knew how weird that seems through the filter of 13 years.

Some 14 months later, we were on the ropes. Staff often wondered whether we were going to get paid. The publishers weren’t getting paid at all. Jeff vonKaenel, the publisher of the Sacramento and Chico News & Reviews offered to pull our parts out of the fire. The Nevada Weekly publishers decided it was better to sell out than to lose Reno’s alternative voice. That was the Reno News & Review’s birth.

This town, and myself in particular, owes a debt of gratitude to Mike Norris, Bill Martin and Larry Henry, just as we owe a debt to Jeff and his wife, Deborah Redmond. Maybe you don’t remember what the daily paper was like before it had to begin competing with us, but I do. I’ll never forget what my Nevada Weekly bosses told me: “We may not get rich or win any Pulitzers, but we’ll damn sure make the Gazette a better paper.”

Did that come to pass? It did for a time. I have hopes it’ll happen again—because a high tide raises all boats.