O, how the mighty have fallen.
Take The Charlotte Observer. It has suffered some massive hits over the past several years, losing 80 percent of its staff to layoffs and buyouts (down from about 300 in the 1990s to fewer than 60 today), and that palatial building uptown to a wrecking ball. Revenue for the Observer's current parent company, McClatchy, is down 25 percent from just five years ago. And even now, The Charlotte Observer continues to hemorrhage ultra-talented veteran staffers like Mark Washburn and medical reporter Karen Garloch.
Miss those great columns by Mary Curtis and Tommy Tomlinson? Yeah, well, that's because they're no longer there.
But all news outlets have suffered. Creative Loafing's staff is the smallest its been since I arrived here from the Observer in 2005. And newspapers across the country are shrinking. It's a sign of the times.
So we can perhaps forgive the shellshocked cluelessness of outgoing Charlotte Observer editor Rick Thames for a comment he made this past week on Facebook. Thames wrote that the not-so-Big O "is the only medium in Charlotte that continues to cover the arts on a consistent basis."
Yes, you read that quote right. It sort of blew our minds, too.
Actually, it kind of made us sad for him.
But while we may be able to give Thames a break for being clueless, his comment says a lot about the worth of large daily newspapers in 2017. When the top editor of a city's "newspaper of record" is so mind-numbingly unaware of the media landscape in his own city that he's willing to make such an egregious comment on a public forum, it reflects badly on every other editor and reporter who works for his paper,
If you're reading this, it should go without saying that you know Creative Loafing has consistently covered the arts every week for the past 30 years. Extensively. Arts, music, dining — it's our main bread and butter.
But it would be be awfully silly for me to sit here and tell you we're the only ones. We're hardly the only ones. Charlotte Magazine consistently covers the arts. WFAE consistently covers the arts. Qnotes consistently covers the arts. And newer media outlets like CLTure consistently cover the arts.
We guess that Thames feels vulnerable in ways that big daily editors never did in earlier times. We remember when fighting the Big O was a challenge. We were the underdogs. They were the big dogs with the big budgets and massive investigative teams. We'd take them to task for not seeing stories in the nooks and crannies, or for sucking up to big money.
But fighting the Puny O is no longer much fun. The paper simply isn't so powerful anymore. So we'll just feel bad for them. And for us. Because we all lose when there's no robust mainstream media outlet to challenge.
Adios, Rick. We hope you spend your retirement catching up on all the great arts coverage in Charlotte. You'll be surprised.
And speaking of arts coverage: This week Corbie Hill takes a look at the Sensoria Festival over at Central Piedmont Community College, focusing on its most recent partners, the Charlotte Center for Literary Arts, known as Charlotte Lit. Corbie talks to founders Kathie Collins and Paul Reali about the growth of this much-needed organization in a city that's been home to numerous published authors since Carson McCullers wrote much of her classic 1940 novel The Heart is a Lonely Hunter at a boarding house that's now Copper Restaurant.
Also in this issue, news editor Ryan Pitkin writes about getting drawn on by those underdogs of the Charlotte arts scene known as tattoo artists. It's true: Pitkin is so dedicated to his job that he got tattooed because he thought it'd make for a great story. It did, and you can read that great story in this week's issue. If you watched any of our live-streaming of his tattooing last week, you'll be particularly interested in what he has to say about the experience.
Finally, Grey Revell checks in with a comprehensive piece on the Charlotte band Grown Up Avenger Stuff, whose new singer promises to take the critically acclaimed group in new musical directions.
And remember: The Loafing is the only medium in Charlotte that consistently refers to itself as "Creative."