Our newest account executive asked me the other day if I recalled the April 1991 Advocate – our first Advocate ever.
Fighting off a sarcastic comment (after all, who doesn’t remember every detail of their first child’s birth?), I reached behind my desk and pulled out a copy of that first, now-faded, now-brown newspaper.
It was black and white throughout, sprinkled with photos (I snapped most of them) and stories about neighborhood people and crime news and education features (I wrote most of them) – content not a whole lot different from today’s Advocate, in a distant sort of way.
What do you think of it? I asked her, silently patting myself on the back for about the thousandth time.
“It’s so…,” she said, struggling for just the right word to tell the boss, “it’s so…hokey.”
Well, I don’t mind telling you that my first thought didn’t involve giving her a big raise.
A little later in the day (quite a bit later, actually), I realized she had hit upon the best and worst aspect of our monthly efforts.
In a big city, the word “hokey” is rarely – if ever – a compliment. In fact, “hokey” is in the same category as “hick.” Or “dorky.” “Rinky-dink.” “Small-town.”
Of course, ever since we started publishing the Advocate, “small-town” is what we’ve strived to be – at least in terms of our content.
We are blasted with all kinds of scary, hopeless stories about rapes and robberies and bribery and extortion and death and sexual abuse in the big city. But it’s hard to find the “small-town” stories that really are more prevalent, if much less exciting to read and talk about.
Hopefully, that’s what you have come to expect form the Advocate all of these years. And hopefully, that’s what we’ve delivered all of these years.
But times change.
My hair is a little more gray than it was prior to that first issue. My car has become a little more temperamental. And my sons are growing faster than the number of coffee shops in our neighborhood.
And now, it’s time for the Advocate to change, too.
Beginning in August, we won’t be a newspaper anymore. We’ll be a magazine.
I’m going to let that sink in a bit before I continue.
The Advocate. A magazine?
That’s right. Beginning in August, I’ll be looking out at you from a different type of publication. Slicker. Glossier. More colorful. Less “hokey,” if you know what I mean.
And in making this change, I’m gambling that you actually do know what I mean.
When I first told my father about our big plans, he asked a question I hadn’t considered: “What are you going to write about in a magazine?”
His assumption, I guess, was that by switching formats, the Advocate had to become a weightier, more relevant, more self-important version of itself.
He thought we’d be like every other magazine, writing stories about way to quickly and easily improve our sex lives, I guess.
Stories about why Dole doesn’t have a chance against Clinton even though Clinton isn’t really all that great, according to anonymous political analysts.
Stories about the dirt that constantly must be swept up at Dallas City Hall or the Commissioner’s Court or everywhere else budding politicos gather to entertain each other.
I had to laugh at his question, because I wasn’t planning to make any changes to the part of our publication that makes us what we are: a rather quiet, steady, and hopefully trust companion for those of us who live in this small part of the big city.
You know, I’ve always heard you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. And I’ve always believed that, as individuals, we are what we are, no matter how much we wish otherwise
So beginning in August, the Advocate will be about as slick and exciting as any of the big-time magazines. Not to worry, though: We’re still going to be delivered free-of-charge to the same 60,000 households every month.
And in the most important ways – the stories we write and the people we write about – we’re still going to be “hokey.”
I kind of like it that way, if you know what I mean.