Requests better Cheapside representation for local print publications
Below is a public appeal revised from an initial June 25 private email sent to area papers, council reps and county Mayor. The author would like to apologize publicly for the part in the private email where he called the Mayor a pimp when “you marketed yourself well” could have sufficed. He promises to attempt to learn from the experience.
In the past two years since North of Center has had a presence at Cheapside Pavilion, the city has moved our distribution rack no less than four times. In each instance, these relocations have further removed NoC from the central “Pavilion” area that the city has spent money to redevelop. And my publication is not alone: Chevy Chaser, Ace and a number of other publications have also been relocated. Currently, we are so far removed from the Pavilion area—on the other side of the Courthouse on a portion of Upper that has little pedestrian traffic—that tourists and residents alike would have no idea from visiting the block that the city has a vibrant print culture. Even the bustling Saturday Farmer’s Market rarely extends out to where we’ve been put. And the results have been clear: since the latest move, our circulation in the area has dropped 50%.
The slow removal of our publications from the Cheapside Pavilion is a queer choice. The area has been celebrated by you as a public place, a hub of downtown activity, a place where people can celebrate the wonders of our city life. And yet, removed from view are the very publications whose writers, staff and owners work diligently to do just this. Not only does this seem like a callous slap in the face—a devaluing—of what we do and contribute to our county and its downtown area, it also works against your visions for “selling” the city. Which is more efficient for the downtown-goers filing through Cheapside looking for something to do or for “unique” facets of the city: check the LFUCG website or pick up a number of free publications sitting right in front of them?
Take, for example, our paper. For over three years NoC has centered its coverage on the county in which you and I both live. We have previewed music shows at our local venues and reviewed new albums by local artists. We have covered community-based sports like bike polo, disc golf and roller derby, and introduced readers to the wonders and importance of our local Kentucky River watershed. Our comics page and editorial cartoons have offered local artists regular outlets to work on their craft, develop their visions and showcase their work. Our stories regularly mention places like Sunrise Bakery, Al’s Bar, Sidebar and the like, not to mention public parks like Shilito, Castlewood, Veterans, and River Hill. We have engaged with downtown development imperatives and attempted to offer a voice on behalf of the city’s homeless population. We have supported alternative forms of transportation like walking, biking and bussing; showcased a number of urban agricultural initiatives and groups; and otherwise provided an outlet for large groups of citizens to have their voice heard. In short, our paper has been a place local residents and tourists alike can visit to learn more about—and engage with—the city of Lexington and its surrounding region. (Heck, we even have a foreign correspondent, our man, who reports from Amsterdam.)
Hiding our paper means hiding all those artists, activists and regular schmoes who we regularly cover. I’m sure, say, Seedleaf and its larger group Faith Feeds (groups we’ve featured many times over the years) appreciate having coverage of them circulated in what is one of the more subsidized and active public places in this city. Same goes for the writers who donate their time and energy and expertise to write the articles.
And that’s just us. Ace, which has expended over twenty years of capital and energy covering the city, the Lexington Herald Leader (chained to scattered far-corners of the block), and the many publications from Local First bulwarks Smiley Pete Publications, also lose out when you segregate our print publications covering the city from downtown-goers at Cheapside. And to the extent that each of these papers have different and diverse readerships, the big losers are all those different types of Cheapside visitors who converge together there. They—we—lose out.
In closing, I would like to make a demand, an offer and a request.
First, to paraphrase our great local resource Don Pratt, find space NOW under or immediately nearby the Pavilion to place Chevy Chaser, the Lexington Herald-Leader, Ace, La Voz, Key Journal, NoC, BizLex and any other print publications contributing to the area’s collective well-being. I value institutions like the Farmer’s Market who make use of our city’s public space, but even they only use the area for 1 day, 8 months out of the year. Print publications like ours have a 24/7 commitment and presence to that space for the entire 12 months. Moving us closer to people will show that you value us and what we contribute to the county you lead.
Second, if you do that, I will offer to work with other local publications to locate donated material and labor to construct a basic structure to house permanently these print publications. Many successful cities like Athens, Georgia, have done just this. This can be done cheaply, without rapacious banks “sponsoring” the activity and inflating its costs. We don’t even have to name it.
Third, I would request an explanation for why our publications have been ignored—actually, further removed from view—during your administration’s redevelopment of Cheapside as a public square. I will publish your response on our Facebook page—and if it’s profound enough, maybe even our print publication.
Editor, North of Center
CC: Tom Martin, Robbie Clarke, Andres Cruz, Tom Eblen, Steve Kay, Chris Ford, Diane Lawless, Tom Blues