Outsider EyesSalutation and aspirations from the new editor

Hello Birmingham. Nice to formally meet you! I’ve been lurking in the background at the paper for a while now, getting our new website ready and contributing an article or a photograph every once and a while, but it’s nice to take the final steps into editorship. It’s been a wild ride thus far, and it certainly began with a bang. Right off the bat, we made a marathon sprint to publish three papers in eight days without the help of our production goddess to guide us to port. It was during that time, pulling shift ‘till one in the morning, extremely tired and happy as hell, that I first began to suspect I had finally landed in the right place.

Let me step back and explain. I arrived here in Birmingham in the late summer of 2007 with my new fiancé. She’s from Birmingham originally, though we met waiting tables at a burger joint in Manhattan, and when we decided to get married and settle, it became clear that there was no way we could afford to stay in New York. I’ve always loved the South, and I grew up in a steel town very similar to Birmingham in many ways, so when the opportunity arose we packed everything we owned into a truck and drove for twenty-some hours straight to get here. It was the best move I ever made.

One of the first things I learned here was that an alarming number of Birmingham natives have a generally negative view of their own city.

“Perhaps they’ve been immersed in their own clichéd national image for too long,” I thought, “or perhaps they can’t see the small wonders for the tabloid headlines.” I, on the other hand, was looking at the city through outsider eyes, and it seemed mighty fine to me.

My temperament dictates that I live in an urban environment, and I’ve always loved New York, but it is so overwhelming at times, so absent of homey comfort. Birmingham, by contrast, is a wonderful meld of large urban environment and small town familiarity. I get to look up at skyscrapers and run into people I know everywhere I go. I get to live minutes from downtown, but in a house that I adore. I mean, it’s got a white picket fence, for crying out loud! And unlike New York, the people of Birmingham have been uniformly and openly welcoming.

On top of this, I discovered that the Magic City hosts a community of artists that produce quality work in a vast array of genres. I’ve whiled away many hours of my life in artistic pursuits of one kind or another, and I was delighted to find creative sustenance abounding.

In particular, I was impressed with the quality of the music being made. I didn’t know how rich Birmingham’s musical history was at the time, but I after I kept discovering new local bands that I liked, I suspected something.

It was around this time that I noticed something peculiar. I would get really excited about a killer show, but when I got there I’d be one of five or ten people there. When I went online to find some local music coverage the only sites I found hadn’t been updated in years. There was a vacuum happening here. Birmingham was producing good music, but no one was paying attention. I felt like I was one man shouting into the void, but it was a place to start, and start I did. I created a blog called r3vrb.com, which morphed into BHAM.FM when I discovered some like-minded individuals to collaborate with.

BHAM.FM was a dream. We broke some stories, booked some shows and I listened to a ton of music, good and bad. For almost two years, I listened to almost every band that played in town. In the end though, like all dreams, real life intervened. People lost interest, lost jobs, got jobs and got married. Pretty soon, it was back to just me again. I plugged along, sacrificing my Sundays to write a week’s worth of posts because I went crazy if I tried to do it daily. Finally, it was too much and I stopped altogether.

This was terribly depressing, though I’m fairly irrepressible when it comes down to it. BHAM.FM had become one of those sites that spurred me to start it in the first place — a wasteland of outdated information. I still wanted to tell the city about the jewels I kept unearthing there, but I couldn’t do it alone. This is when I approached Birmingham Weekly about writing a music column, and it was as much to my surprise as anyone else when they offered me the Managing Editor gig instead.

I’ve done every piece of this job in one form or another. I’ve worked as a layout designer, I’m a life-long writer and photographer, I’ve managed other people and I’ve edited a blog. Never the less, becoming the editor of a newspaper wasn’t even on my radar screen a few months ago, and it’s an amazing opportunity I don’t want to abuse, so I was a little nervous about coming aboard.

This is why, hammering wearily away at one in the morning on those first papers, I was so happy. I had landed, sublimely and serendipitously, in the right place. Here, I can dedicate all of my energy and time to accomplishing my original goal. I can celebrate the things about Birmingham I’ve come to love, from a larger platform then I ever thought I possible and I am sure I will learn more about Birmingham in the process than I ever would have otherwise.

Don’t take my prior enthusiasm as naiveté.

All is not sunshine and roses in Vulcan’s domain, and I will make sure we address the issues that face the community, but I will face those issues with an optimistic heart and unfettered by the shackles of cynicism. I hope you’ll continue to join me.

Write to editor@bhamweekly.com.

Orig­i­nally printed in Birm­ing­ham Weekly on July 8, 2010.

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