One thing I have gained personally from having a smaller staff at Creative Loafing these days is that it has forced me out of my comfort zone.
I can't just sit around the office and act like an editor, delegating the reporting and writing duties to a staff of journalists. At CL today, we have exactly one staff news reporter, a feature writer who serves double duty coordinating ads, and a designer.
Where I would once assign stories, edit them, write the occasional feature and pen an editor's note, I now have to get out and report many of the stories myself, just like I did when I was a rookie cop reporter years ago in Burlington.
And that's a beautiful thing. It's given me the opportunity to have more face time with you, the readers, as well as with the artists and other people we profile in our pages.
I get to meet and talk with the restaurateurs whose food I've written about. And while I'm no food critic, I've enjoyed expanding, as a writer, into areas I've never written about before.
I also get to do more writing in an area that I know and love very much: music. I've gotten out and talked to younger musicians making new music at venues in Charlotte that didn't exist when I first came to CL a little more than a decade ago.
In this issue, I got the chance to meet with members of The Business People, a Charlotte indie-rock band whose music I discovered while editing a story a few issues ago on Charlotte actor and filmmaker Carolyn Laws. The Business People had contributed a song to Laws' short film Damiane and Her Demons. I liked the song and searched out the band's 2016 EP Dirty Feelings on Bandcamp. When I heard The Business People were playing at Hattie's last weekend and at Snug Harbor this week, I decided it was time to go check them out. You can read my story in the music section.
But no matter how much more I get out of the office to report stories, there's no way we could do what we do at CL without our staffers and freelancers. The mix of different voices and perspectives is what gives Creative Loafing its personality and scope. Take this week's cover story on chef Donnie Simmons. It came at the last minute during our weekly planning meeting. We had plenty of material to run, but no obvious cover. Designer Dana Vindigni spoke up: "We haven't done a food cover in a long time."
She was right. In fact, we haven't done a food cover since I arrived back at CL earlier this year, and the timing couldn't have been more perfect for this week's look at Simmons, a former chef at Zada Janes in Plaza Midwood who's opening four new restaurants in Monroe. News editor Ryan Pitkin volunteered to go talk to him and he brings Simmons' character to life in the food section.
Also in this issue, we continue Kia O. Moore's series on five women who are shaking things up in Charlotte's arts and culture institutions. Last issue, Kia wrote about the things Jessica Moss is doing over at the Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts + Culture.
This week, Kia sits down with Asysia Osborne, the director of the Historic West End Initiative at Charlotte Center City Partners. Osborne's essential role at Center City Partners is to be a human face at the Uptown boosters group, interacting with West Charlotte community members who live in the Biddleville area, less than a mile from Uptown.
Those community members are concerned about what development of the area will mean for their area's future. Will it mean displacement? Will it mean the area will lose the history that makes it unique? Will those residents have a say?
"At the end of every policy, every law, and every decision in our community, there are people," Osborne tells Kia in this week's news feature. "This work impacts real people every day. So, if you lead with that thinking — that whatever I do, whatever I say, or however I move is going to impact someone else's life — then you are less likely to have a much larger negative impact on people's lives."
Another thing I've learned with our leaner staff at CL is that it's important not to have an intentionally negative impact on peoples' lives.
As snarky as we can be towards Charlotte's leaders, the ultimate goal at CL is to help make lives better, not worse. And that's a lesson you can't get if you're not out talking to people.