My postings here have been scarce of late, for a couple of reasons. The main one is this, which was announced this evening:
Veteran journalist, blogger, novelist and playwright Kevin Allman joins the staff of Gambit Weekly next week, taking the helm as editor. He replaces Clancy DuBos, who will remain on staff as the political editor. DuBos co-owns the paper with his wife, publisher and CEO Margo DuBos, and is chairman of Gambit Communications Inc.
“I’ve read Gambit Weekly since I came to town in 1993, and I’m really pleased and thankful to be offered the opportunity to join the paper’s editorial team,” Allman says. “New Orleans in 2008 is an exciting place and time to be a journalist. There’s great work being done at the city’s papers, on its TV news and on the local blogs, and they’re working together in interesting ways — some ways that are actually ahead of the rest of the nation in their hyper-local focus. I’m looking forward to suiting up and joining the fray.”
More here, including a couple of staff promotions and hires (congratulations, David, Noah, and Alex). I'm humbled as hell, obviously, but there's more to the story.
For out-of-towners: Gambit is the city's alt-weekly and #2 paper. It's synonymous with Clancy and Margo DuBos, who founded it more than two decades ago. There have been other editors (including the very talented Michael Tisserand), but Clancy has always been identified with the paper and has served as editor for long stretches. He's a quadruple threat: a lawyer, a political expert (and commentator on WWL News here in New Orleans), a writer, and a hell of an editor. Margo handles the business operations and is proving that a newspaper can succeed (contrary to popular opinion) if the people running it know what they're doing and are nimble and smart.
But Clancy is the face of the paper, in the minds and hearts of many New Orleanians. His commentaries are read every week; his endorsements carry weight; and his mug is on the most-watched TV news in the city. He's a one-name figure in New Orleans; people know who you mean when you say 'Clancy.' So, when he approached me about this over a sushi lunch, I was apprehensive -- and my first reaction was "I'm not even going to consider this unless you're staying on to cover politics." That was what he wanted to do, so it worked out perfectly and we explored the idea. (Yeah, I'll be hounding him to post on the blog with tidbits and personal observations that may not make the newsprint edition. Insights. Anecdotes. Gossip.)
I didn't know Clancy well at that time. But he let me contribute to the paper's blog, Blog of New Orleans. Never once a conversation about content or whether something was appropriate: just do it. That was cool. The paper let me bring in guest bloggers -- writers in the community who had proven they had something to say and the chops to say it -- and they agreed with my core belief that guest writers and bloggers should be paid. Even cooler. (Give me a smart, engaged, local writer over Maureen Dowd any day.)
This summer, I filled in for some vacationing writers and editors when they were shorthanded, and the staff was talented and smart and au courant without the disease of Terminal Hipsterosis that has infected so many alt-weeklies. That was the coolest of all. I liked these people, and I liked their work. There are journalists in this country that would kill to be able to enterprise their own stories, work their own beats, and get the space they need to do their craft. They can do that at Gambit.
Now I get to join them, and I can't tell you how happy I am about that.
There's a saying in New Orleans -- so far behind, we're ahead -- and in no way is that truer than when it comes to the written word. People in this bassackwards city still read books and newspapers. They like writing, and they like writers. They even respect them.
And there are journalism jobs here, at a time when the rest of the country is discarding talented people because the beancounters can't figure out a way to make money in newspapers. (Laying off the beancounters who run the papers into the ground never seems to occur to them.)
Like I said: so far behind, we're ahead.
Last add: Clancy announced the news not in the weekly edition, but on the paper's blog tonight. That was no accident. He felt - strongly - that some of the city's best writing and most insightful stuff was D.I.Y. -- that the Internet had spawned some damned incredible thinkers and reporters and analysts in post-Katrina New Orleans. I agree with him. Blogs and websites are the natural evolution of broadsheets and alt-weeklies and zines, and some of the most trenchant writing produced these days is done with electrons, not on (increasingly expensive) newspaper. I read the blogs, I value bloggers' opinions, and I do (and will) talk back, even when we're unhappy with one another.
So, thanks, Clancy, and thanks, Margo, and thanks to the staff and freelancers at Gambit, who were the ones who really made me want this job so we could work together. I'm looking forward to Monday.