My first opportunity to work for the Tucson Weekly came way back in 1984, when the rag was still a mewling little baby in its downtown crib.
Publisher and Editor Doug Biggers relayed me an offer through his sister, who was then dating my brother: I could join his distribution staff, delivering copies of the fledgling TW to cafés, bars and granola outlets. My payment: The chance to gather unwanted copies of the last edition and get what I could for them at a recycling plant.
Too young to recognize my big break in the newspaper biz, I passed up my chance to join the Weekly staff.
I wasn't so foolish the next time opportunity knocked. A few months after my college graduation with a relatively worthless degree, I got a call from Doug himself. Mr. Big had another opening: I could take over the duties of a runner, delivering ad proofs to clients and picking up checks.
It was an offer I could hardly refuse, so spent the broiling summer of '89 tooling around Tucson in a quasi-functional VW bug, able to shrug off the heat because I knew I had finally hit the big time.
In short succession, I tackled a number of other important jobs at TW, including stints in distribution, paste-up and, for a few short weeks, janitorial.
Eventually, I weaseled my way onto the editorial staff. When I came on board, the average edition ran about 28 pages, but that changed fast as the product grew increasingly irresistible, and the sales staff become increasingly savvy. During the next couple of years, we bulked up with a news section and launched a no-good anonymous political gossip column called The Skinny. Our cover stories grew stronger and more relevant. We added and subtracted columns about books, sex, the outdoors and anything else that piqued our interest. We expanded our film coverage and added one of our best-read features: the film times.
During the last 20 years, we've done some decent work. We've helped knock a few folks out of office and helped put others over the top. We've exposed fixes and phonies. We've picked up more than 100 journalism awards for our reporting, our columns and our feature writing. We've comforted the afflicted and afflicted the comfortable and raised hell and all that jazz.
We've thrown the biggest rock'n parties downtown has ever seen. We've published great fiction and stunning photography. We helped save the Temple of Music and Art from the wrecking ball. We've helped people find love--or something like it--through our personals.
And most of all, we've chronicled what it's like to live here, in the vanishing Sonoran Desert, at the end of the 20th century and the start of the 21st.
Regrets? There are too few to mention. There were times when we weren't sure if our scrappy little independent paper would be in business next week, or if we even wanted to be in business next week. But we persevered and grew strong, and now you hold the first issue of Volume 21 in your hands.
There aren't many jobs in this biz where you can pick and choose your stories, and I'll be eternally grateful that I somehow managed to land one of them. The Weekly has been my ticket to stories from the sandy shores of the Sea of Cortez to the rocky coast of Kennebunkport, Maine. I've chased down UFO believers in Roswell, mercenaries in Vegas and crooked cops in Cochise County. Along the way, I've met a lot of oddballs and made a lot of friends--including the best friend I'm ever likely to have, former art director Hector Acuña, who always made the paper look so good. Thanks for everything, Hector! I'll see you in Rocky Point.
I'd be remiss if I didn't give a shout-out to the editors who have steered me through these years: Angela Sommers, Susan Knight, Dan Huff, James Reel, Michael Parnell and Jimmy Boegle. Thanks to all of them for giving me a long leash and for publishing the words I bring home. Thanks also to current Publisher Tom Lee, for recognizing that the paper was better served by putting me on the street instead of behind a desk.
Muchas gracias to Doug Biggers, for having faith in me those many years ago--and for hosting one hell of a bachelor party for me last year.
And thanks to all you readers out there who keep picking us up every week.
This week marks 20 years, with a sleek new look and more potential than ever. TW is in the capable hands of Editor Jimmy Boegle and his visual partner in crime, Hugh Dougherty, who have done the heavy lifting to ensure this makeover went right and who promise to make the book even better in the years ahead.
Happy Birthday, Tucson Weekly! And many happy returns!