I worked as the Marketing Director at Creative Loafing in Tampa for a decade.
While there, I ran huge events (like Beer Fest and Best of the Bay Awards), helped launch a thriving gift certificate program (CL Deals), produced an award-winning podcast featuring local bands in the archive room (this was pre-NPR’s Tiny Desk), launched a horror film festival (Reel Terror), opened and ran an event space (CL Space), managed a very active street team, and made a mean pot of coffee.
I was a musician when I landed the job, but while “working” for CL, I became a part of the art/music/food community in a way that can’t easily be extricated from my sense of who I am today. Anyone who has spent time at an alt-weekly will know. It’s family. You found your people.
Alt-weeklies have always been about telling the stories you want to hear, from an independent or outsider perspective. It was also (at the time) about reclaiming journalism from the monolithic daily newspaper(s) (back then, we had two). Our street teams never slashed each other’s tires like the radio people did, but it got tense a couple times.
Because of CL, I covered the South by Southwest conference six years in a row. I even presented at SXSW in 2010 on the state of alt-weeklies and the rise of online journalism.
Because of CL, I stood ten feet from soon-to-be-President Obama and directed a video shoot of his Tampa campaign speech.
I was afforded opportunity after opportunity and gained every bit of real-world experience I would ever need — all for very little pay and middling health insurance coverage. But, the people — all of us moving and stretching and hyper-performing to the weekly rhythm of the deadline — were a family. And the stories were in our blood.
If you have ever been written about or supported by Creative Loafing, please consider supporting them in this time of crisis. They’re down to, like, 3 or 5 staffers and are running on fumes. Seeing them shutter (even temporarily) would be heartbreaking.
And, in a time when focusing on the community and telling honest stories is sorely needed, we should reward those who are doing it well. Don’t mind the Kickstarter-y “Press Club” messaging. Just, please, donate whatever you can.