I’m told this is our 25th year of publishing Best of Utah, but who knows? Could be. I remember about 10 years ago, we celebrated our 15th year of Best Of, only to learn that thanks to a typo on a masthead date, we were actually only 14, not 15. We didn’t tell anyone and celebrated 15 again the next year, no worse for the wear.
Someone told me they have 24 issues in a file so I’m going to go off of that intel. I just remember the first ones (mostly for the pain factor) and this one (because it’s fresh and there are real superstars carrying the torch here these days). It’s sort of like a really long NBA basketball game. You settle in for tip-off, take a look at who’s starting, catch a few plays, then fall asleep until the final two minutes. This is the final two minutes. I’m paying attention.
That’s primarily due to the fact that the issue you hold now is the largest-ever in the history of City Weekly—208 pages. That’s not too shabby in an industry that some have mocked as dead or dying for the past decade or so. The past five years have been especially tough, but we didn’t die, and we are not dying. Just look at your hands. That’s ink on them, isn’t it? If print is dead, then what are you doing holding a newspaper? Well, you’re doing what people have been doing with newspapers since Day 1—you are engaged, turning the pages, carrying it around, following what you perceive to be an important local community. This newspaper is your conduit to that community.
As you read, you learn more about your community and yourself than you could from even the most perfectly worded tweet. As you read, you don’t have to count up how many other people “like” what you like—you simply look around the room and see that life exists, it is not transmitted. People are eating their food, not licking pictures. And that barroom chatter going on at the table next to you? It’s a real conversation, not a staged blast of noise for your latest Snapchat.
I don’t suffer from social-media envy. I do use it, just not without boundaries. I tweet. I take pictures of food. I “like” comments. I used to post social and political commentary, but all that did was teach me how much I didn’t know about my good friends. You can have a political discussion in a live social setting and walk away with a broader knowledge of that topic. Have the same discussion online and—God forbid—the very same friend will de-friend you on Facebook because they discovered you support the manatee. Social media is a really dumb name for something so the polar opposite of social.
I look at Instagram. I don’t care forÂ Vine. I don’t use FourSquare—that’s one I never grasped at all. Why would I tell my friends where I am when the point of me going to where I am is to make new friends? If we all kept that up, we’d still be hanging out with that kid with the snot nose from first grade and marry the girl with zits from seventh. But maybe FourSquare is just a tool to show off—an electronic version of properly stacking your smart newspapers and magazines on the coffee table before the guests arrive. “See, I’m cool. I read City Weekly,” becomes, “See, I’m cool. I’m at a bar that was featured in City Weekly.” But, one had to read City Weekly in the first place to know the place was cool—and that’s what’s really cool. That is, print isn’t dead.
At City Weekly, we continually push and share our own content to social media. That’s just brand extension and alternative delivery. We don’t dumb it down. We point you to where we think you should go to find out about, say, John Swallow (hands down the biggest creep our pages have ever encountered). We also point you to the best meals, the hottest clubs, the neat-o parties, the community events that need paying attention to, the smaller groups of small voices who gain a larger voice through our pages. And so on.
We don’t hate social media. We don’t blame social media for what ails the bulk of the newspaper industry. We see social media for what it is—an electronic news rack, just another way to put our news and views into your heads.
But some people in the newspaper industry don’t think like us. They think by bumping page views and click-throughs on ads, they will find a way to make enough money to somehow pay for their news operations. If you want to know how well that works, just look at your local morning newspapers, which have both embarked down paths that are less and less about local community (The Salt Lake Tribune because it has vanquished its resources; the Deseret News because the Mormon brand is a worldwide brand, not a local one). Each has suffered through massive editorial staff reductions, and there are more rumored to come.
Good luck, fellas.
And we do wish them luck. But for now, we dance—not on their grave, but to our own music, and you are the band. If you hear someone say print is dead, smack them with your bassoon. It’s been a great 25-year ride—more roller than coaster, but still great. Thanks to all of you—the best of the best. Perhaps we’ll see you at the Best of Utah party, and if so, let’s get social the way God meant us to.
Twitter (if you're into that): @JohnSaltas