Sunday, September 26, 2010

And The Winner of Moonshine's 3rd Annual Rib-a-Que Is...

Top Shelf BBQ!

More on this in the next Pipeline, but a fun time was most certainly had by all yesterday at the 3rd Annual Rib-A-Que. Thanks to the ever friendly and community minded folks at Moonshine for allowing me to pop in for the purpose of covering the event. I'm actually not too fond of ribs and messy foods that mess with fingertips (and consequently a camera's buttons), so I was there mainly to chat up rib fans. On my way home I picked up a frozen Stouffer's stuffed pepper and Baked Lays, at Walgreen's, of all places to source for food.

But back to the ribs, and the dozen or so contestants... I heard A LOT of opinions about ribs as well as sauces, from fans as well as chefs, and will share some of those opinions as well as more smiling faces in Tuesday's (9/28) issue.

Special props to Philin Phlash, founder of the Wicker Park Voice, a local rag published in the late 1990s/early '00s, for snapping a way better shot of the Top Shelf winners which he promised that he'd figure out a way to upload the pic to his computer and then email to me by the next issue so I can include it as well a Phil's byline. There is a framed cover of Wicker Park Voice over at caffe de Luca, where my alter ego works on Wednesdays, so that's how I knew of the publication.

Philin is a tried and true newspaper man with many years out in the field as a reporter, photojournalist, and publisher. He doesn't remember meeting me, but a few years back I was there when he was selling most of his locally shot photo archives in the former Wiki Market space, before it was Wiki market, and now I believe it is the Wifi lounge room for Skewers. In fact, I think I blogged about Phil over on one of my now defunct blogs and will try to dig up the post if I can find it.

Philin pretty much did- FOR THREE YEARS- what I've been doing now for almost 1.5 years. What I mean is writing, selling ads, taking pictures, coordinating other writers, and with the added stress of actually printing the damn thing, not something I want to do, plus it wastes trees, though I did get a smile on my face when I saw this story, printed and taped to the counter at Plateau Hand Car wash.

The clip Marvin of Plateau had pasted to his counter somehow made what I'm doing "feel real," as did Phil's kind words about the fact he's been reading the Pipeline since I signed him up maybe a year or so ago and regretted that he hasn't had time to write back and tell me that he enjoys reading it. "I was wondering how long it would take for somebody to start doing what I used to do," Phil said yesterday.

Another cool thing that happened yesterday was an existing advertiser who renewed for another 6 weeks. I always get extremely nervous around renewal time and hope that people feel good about their investment, as it is one of the worst feelings in the world, not knowing if people really see value, and then asking for their business anyway, and in a down economy to boot. It makes you want to crawl into the nearest hole and to apologize for your very existence, until, of course, they say "yes" again and you realize that you are producing something viable that is helping at least one other person.

This person said I needed to update his ad. He currently offers $25 more than what's been advertised in The Pipeline, and he just brought on two new customers who referenced seeing the ad and the rate in the e-newsletter, and he honored the deal that they referenced.

I see this as a good sign, because even if I had old numbers, the advertiser still got new business. And I want advertisers to be successful, because as much as everyone talks about how much they like local news, or give their highly paid PR people my contact info, or send me news tips, or suggestions for stories, or get annoyed about the fact I've never featured them, if there are not advertisers to help support the e-newsletter, and if I keep putting so much time and energy into its production each week, I'll end up in a shelter just like the one which is hosting an Open House on Oct. 7.

As for Philin, I see him as a blessing from above: A guy who likely understands what I'm doing, and appears to have been in it for the people, the connections and the relationships, the images, the stories, and not the dollar signs. Because there are few dollar signs in community journalism, something I suspect the latest competitor is learning as she goes door-to-door with spanking new business cards and an idea so good it's already been trademarked. A few people have asked me about this new player, and without feeling absurd like someone out of the movie, Waiting for Guffman (really, it's all pretty funny), I've responded that I am of the opinion that there's more than enough room for everyone on the hyperlocal news circuit, and we can't all cover everything all of the time, thus "the more, the merrier."

As long as I stay true to my passion, which is street-side reporting, i.e. expanding on events and finding random tidbits not seen anywhere else, and providing original coverage in a one time weekly format for those who do not have the time to keep up with a constant stream of updates and posts, I think that I will be OK for a long time. I believe that there is value in this street-side style and approach, and when people stop supporting it, I'll stop producing it and figure out something else to do. I always do (knock on pressed wood desk.)

But until then, I'm off to cover a few more events today. I actually got a decent night's sleep, so I'm not bitter like I usually am when I realize it's just another Sunday when I'd rather be on my couch listening to music and reading the newspaper than out and about chatting up strangers.

I really hope Phil turns in his photo of the winners by deadline.

"I'm about to jump off a building," I told him yesterday.

And he understood. Key in this song, please.

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