Jon Anne Willow

A year and a day

By - Mar 10th, 2010 04:00 am
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Third Coast Digest's First AnniversaryOn Monday, TCD’s new managing editor, VITAL veteran Erin Petersen, and I were hanging out at the conference table looking over the week’s editorial calendar. As we wrapped up, she said off-handedly, “Hey, you know what tomorrow is? TCD’s first anniversary.”

… Oops.

Her words hung in the air and neither of us spoke for a good, long ten seconds as this sunk in.

“I guess I’ll write a column for Wednesday. I’m slammed tomorrow.”

“Cool,” she said. “I’ll slot it in a feature position.” And that was that.

You would think we’d be having a big birthday party, with cake and whiskey and bands and a VIP area with champagne flowing freely. That was my original intent, anyway, when we launched on March 9, 2009. I should have at least planned a nice gathering for the staff and key supporters… but I didn’t. No party, no press release, nada.

It’s been that kind of year: relentless. No time for niceties, not even important ones, apparently.

I do wish, more than ever, that someone was filming a long-term documentary about this whole thing, tracking how VITAL Source started in 2001 in the back of a coffee shop in an “office” that doubled as storage for dry goods and beer.

It would be funny to be a fly on the wall for days when Mehrdad would do the café shopping late at night and we would arrive in the morning and, in a state of extreme annoyance, have to move boxes of tomatoes and bags of bread off our desks to work. Or the day we finally moved into “real” offices – all the way across the street from the café on the corner of Bremen and Clarke. About 10 of us carried the furniture by hand from our old space to the new, re-assembling the cheap desks with L-brackets and extra nails. Or our 5th birthday party, a giant, old-fashioned carnival held in Turner Hall, complete with striped tents, popcorn, over a mile of white lights and hundreds of helium balloons.

Viewers might shed a tear over the night we decided to pull the plug on the magazine, when four of us sat in the office and polished off two bottles of whiskey, four bottles of champagne and about a carton of cigarettes, crying, laughing and hugging spontaneously until the wee hours as the snow fell in heavy sheets outside the dark window. Or maybe a few days later, when Mehrdad and I got everyone together and announced that we had changed our minds, that we wanted to finish our side project, Third Coast Digest, and see if we could make a go of it. Or last week’s big office flap, about a piece of artwork that included an unfortunate meatloaf.

Yes, this last year has been a test. Already exhausted from trying to reinvent a media outlet in a horrible economy and in a rapidly disintegrating industry, I lost my mom suddenly in early September, the same week the feature film I’d co-written and co-produced was set to premiere at MAM. My kids have had their own troubles and worries, too, and Michael and I have spent many sleepless nights wondering if they would ever be okay again. Frost the cake with a big pile of financial stress.

There have been days when I could barely drag myself out of bed, drinking coffee at my kitchen table while gazing blankly at my laptop screen, wondering if I was going to make it through the day, let alone this time. I’ve never been so overwhelmed, and that’s putting it mildly. I’m usually too stupid to know when I’m in over my head (actually, an advantage for entrepreneurs), but at times in the last twelve months I’ve suffered from doubt.

But that’s not all that’s happened this year. As I mentioned, I co-wrote and co-produced my first feature film, New Day, welcomed my first grandchild into the world and got my own TV show on MPTV-10, which premieres in May (more on that very soon). I’ve been doing regular weekly appearances on WTMJ-4’s “What’s Hot” news segment and speaking on panels, in classrooms and in interviews with the Business Journal and the Associated Press for stories on agile small business owners finding new ways to innovate in tough times. My kids are starting to be better, and three of them in particular seem to have the forest’s edge in sight.

Who knew that so much life could be packed into so little time?

For my part, it looks like I’m going to make it. And I think TCD is, too. Much of the fabulous VITAL crew has stuck by, and in August we welcomed the city’s most talented arts critic, the warm and wonderful Tom Strini, into the fold as a partner. There’s a palpable energy surrounding us, with incredible new and veteran voices joining the ranks of our little army all the time.

It’s not possible to individually thank everyone who has lent invaluable support, advice, time and energy this year; from our advertisers and community partners to our staff, our family and friends and, most of all, you.

So thank you. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for making TCD possible and proving that journalism isn’t dead. Thank you for your patience through our growing pains and your honest feedback when things need to be better. Thank you for the kind words, and thank you for reading TCD and sharing it with people you know.

We’ll have that party in May. More on that here.

Jon Anne

Categories: Up All Night

0 thoughts on “A year and a day”

  1. Anonymous says:

    Your welcome! It has been a blast.

  2. Anonymous says:

    TCD is a fantastic resource I read all the time. Long may you wave!!!

  3. Anonymous says:

    To Jan Ann et al…Congratulations and the very best wishes possible on the Happy Birthday of TCD. Here’s to as many more years as you want and to financial success!!

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