It was a classic alt-weekly moment. Creative Loafing's news editor Ryan Pitkin, designer Dana Vindigni and I were basking in the multiple wins our staff and freelancers received at the N.C. Press Association's annual News, Editorial & Photojournalism awards ceremony at the Sheraton in Raleigh last Thursday, March 9.
Dana posed with her First Place award for Appearance and Design; Ryan posed with his First Place award for Sports News Reporting. We Snapchatted and Tweeted and Facebooked video and photos of our stack of certificates, and texted congratulations to CL's other winners: Freelancers Vanessa Infanzon and Lara Americo, for their Best Multimedia Project award; Page Leggett, for Arts and Entertainment Reporting; and Erin Tracy-Blackwood, for her win in the Serious Columns category.
Then Ryan and Dana decided that they deserved a drink. So we sneaked off to a pub down the street with plans to return for the final special awards later in the evening (the event was dragging on a bit).
Ah, how the best laid plans of mice and men oft go awry.
After 9 p.m., I left the bar where Ryan and Dana were vigorously playing Rock 'Em Sock 'Em Robots. When I returned to the Sheraton to check on the ceremony, people were huddled in the lobby, talking and drinking and heading to afterparties. The event was over. Done. And we had been M.I.A. when Creative Loafing took the biggest award of the night for specialty publications: First Place in the General Excellence category. It could have been a deleted scene from some gonzo-journalism film like Almost Famous or Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.
We won! Where were we?
The mixed feelings of elation and disappointment were palpable last week, but right now I'm just an editor with an almost parental feeling of joy for my staff and freelancers. Of all the news and entertainment media outlets for which I've served as editor — Rolling Stone, SF Weekly, and a few others — none have had editorial staffs that were brighter or more passionate, energetic and resourceful than Creative Loafing's. The journalists who have worked under me here have given their hearts and souls to CL and Charlotte, and delivered some of the finest reporting and design I've come across in my decades as an editor.
That's not always so easy these days.
CL's staff — like the staffs at news media companies across the country today — is not nearly the size it was when I first became editor in 2006. Not only that, but today we lack the rich investigative resources we had during journalism's halcyon years prior to the 2008 financial crisis. On the up side, we have digital resources that didn't exist in earlier years, and space on the Internet to do all kinds of nontraditional reporting. On the down side, revenue and pages are much lower than they were in the prosperous '90s. For news media outlets nationwide, these developments have meant one of two things (and sometimes a little of both): Spend long hours in the field and be exponentially more resourceful in our gathering and presenting of the news – or sacrifice journalistic standards.
I'm proud to say Creative Loafing has chosen to work hard and be exponentially more resourceful. In 2012, the bright, energetic news staff I assembled here covered the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte like no other local media company. When I left Creative Loafing for the West Coast the following year, subsequent editors Kim Lawson, Jeff Hahne and Anita Overcash continued that commitment to hard work and quality coverage. And last week at the North Carolina Press Association Awards ceremony in Raleigh, Creative Loafing's current staff and freelancers were awarded big for their hard work.
I couldn't be prouder. And you, as readers and users of Creative Loafing's platforms, should be proud that you live in Charlotte, with an alternative weekly that cares about you and all the wonderful (and sometimes not-so-wonderful) things that happen in this city. Thank you for sharing it with us.