A Special Message from A. Birch Steen
- The Stranger's Year in Regrets
- All the Mistakes of 2007
- We Regret Mentioning Suicide, Publishing Essays about Suicide, and Placing Visual Depictions of Suicide on Our Cover: Dept. of Public Accountability
- That Sculpture Is a Stain on Our Reputation: Dept. of Public Art
- Please Allow Me to Set the Record Straight: Dept. of Closets and Stalls
- I Regret that Pit Bulls Find My Face So Delicious: Dept. of Pets
- I Regret Killing All-Ages Music: Dept. of Music
- I Regret Pitching the Fake Regrets Item, "I Regret Sassing Off to My Intoxicated Husband, then Walking into That Door, by Marlaina Kiner-McIver”: Dept. of Internal Affairs
Two blissful months ago, I resigned from my post as public editor of The Stranger. The reasons were many and obvious. There is only so much the soul can take, after all, and after more than five years of chronicling the ineptitude, outrages, and travesties this paper publishes on a weekly basis, I had reached my limit. Fearing for my health, I tendered my resignation.
To my surprise, in my absence the feeble editors of The Stranger did not, as I assumed they would, abandon the idea of a public editor. Though publisher Tim Keck had long been in my corner, the mouth-breathing degenerates who write and edit this rag had for years been united in their belief that I was their enemy. They were right, but that is beside the point. The Stranger without a moral compass would surely sink; I eagerly awaited a glimpse of the iceberg on the horizon. My eagerness only grew once I caught sight of their replacement for me the first week following my resignation, a pathetic joke—a photograph of a plate of pasta. As you'd expect, that photograph was the most substantial item published in that entire issue.
My glee was short-lived, as the very next week a dispatch from Tim Keck arrived, wherein my old cribbage partner pleaded for my swift return to my post. My meager column, evidently, was sorely missed—not just by Keck, mind you, but by a vocal portion of the readership. In fact, according to Keck's numbers, the column had somehow become more popular than any of The Stranger's actual content, out-polling not just the usual idiots (see: Mudede, Charles) but even the unindicted co-conspirator in America's concurrent syphilis, gonorrhea, chlamydia, and out-of-wedlock-pregnancy epidemics. (While the United States currently spends some $250 million each year in abstinence education, I believe a far saner plan for combating the problem would be to pay Dan Savage a lump sum of $1 million to simply stop writing.)
Just how my weekly distillation of The Stranger's blunders became so popular remains baffling. Years ago, I had resigned myself to the belief that, since The Stranger continued to publish, my complaints about its content were falling upon deaf ears. How could an intelligent readership continue to abide such useless, and often outright dangerous, drivel? Did the paper's readership consist of drug-addled, ADD-inflicted youth? Could they even read? Or were all the pretty pictures and illustrations sprinkled throughout the paper enough of a distraction to keep advertisers fooled and circulation numbers high? These questions about the paper's readers had a hand in my decision to resign. The Stranger readership was too complacent, too willfully ignorant for the effort I was putting into it.
Now, however, I find myself changing tunes. The Stranger has indeed floundered in my absence, as their cheap stunts involving "replacements" for me prove (sincere apologies to Ryan Blethen and David Postman, two fine journalists whose names have been sullied by appearing in these pages against both their knowledge and will). The fact that my weekly critique is the most-read column in the paper restores my faith in the Stranger readership and at the same time gives me some leverage at the negotiating table. I am now being paid twice as much as before for my efforts.
All of which brings us to the very issue you are holding: appropriately enough, The Stranger's annual Regrets Issue, devoted to recounting all the errors and lapses in judgment the paper has unleashed upon an unsuspecting citizenry over the previous year. It is impossible not to see the joy with which The Stranger's writers and editors look back on their own mistakes. Yes, it is infuriating. As with most everything The Stranger creates, this issue is meant as a joke. Brimming with newspaper-speak corrections, some for legitimate errors, many nothing more than cheap shots at enemies and more intelligent competitors, the Regrets Issue exposes not only journalistic failing but the paucity of conscience that infests this paper's staff. Why apologize when you can mock? Why explain yourself when you can abuse others? This, as you know, has long been The Stranger's strategy, and the notable damage this stance does to both the enterprise of journalism and to society itself continues to find no purchase within the paper's alcohol-encumbered ranks.
So yes—regret. It is something I have felt toward The Stranger for years. Now that I have returned—reinvigorated and itching for a fight—I hope to teach this paper a little something about it.
Warm regards and happy New Year's,
A. Birch Steen