To know who we are now, it helps to know who we were before. So I scoured the internet (and current arts editor Sean Nelson’s e-mail contact list) to find some of our forebears. Most former employees have been able to find gainful employment after their tenure here, and some of them seem to have dissolved into the air. As a current writer for this paper, I’m encouraged by both outcomes. These writers helped to establish The Stranger’s distinctive verbal and editorial style, which, so far as I can tell, hits all the points on the spectrum between thoughtful narrative journalism and a smart baby throwing a fit. They are the horses who ran before us. Here’s where they are now.
MATTHEW RICHTER, PERFORMANCE EDITOR: 1994–98
What do you do now?
In 1995, I was supposed to write a puff-piece feature about the many arts, cultural, and lefty political groups working out of the Oddfellows Building at 10th and Pine. As I started researching the piece, it became obvious that there was something actually odd about the new generation of younger Odd Fellows who had taken over the building, and after a multi-month-long undercover experiment we exposed it as a front for a right-wing neo-Nazi separatist movement called the Populist Party. We published a series exposing the group (the first was called “The He-Man Jew-Haters Club,” the second was called “Little White Liars,” I forget the headlines for the others). There were death threats (this was pre-internet, when you had to take death threats seriously), and Tim [Keck, publisher of The Stranger], feeling very protective of his people, hired a guy named Floyd, a local bouncer, to walk around with me.
Anyway the local Odd Fellows got kicked out by an apologetic national Odd Fellows organization, which then sold the building to a local real estate investor. He maintained the status quo with the building’s artsy cultural tenants for a decade. Then in 2007 the building sold to another investor/developer who tripled the rents and emptied out the building, making way for higher-rent tenants like the nice restaurants, NUBE Green, Molly Moon, etc.
I asked you a question.
Please stick with me, we’re almost there.
The displacement of the arts organizations and cultural spaces from the Oddfellows Building was the event that finally brought together the city council, real estate developers, and the cultural community to address the gentrification and displacement that was threatening Pike/Pine—threatening all our neighborhoods. That group, the CODAC (Cultural Overlay District Advisory Council), issued a report the following year that made several recommendations, and chief among them was for the city to create a new full-time staff position, a sort of cultural space liaison, and back that person up with the resources to address the challenges and opportunities that growth brings to culturally rich neighborhoods. Five years later the city acted on that recommendation, and I was offered the best job I’ve ever had. It’s pretty literally the exact same as traveling back in time and becoming your own great-grandfather.
CLARK HUMPHREY, MISC. COLUMNIST, CROSSWORD CREATOR, GENERALIST: 1991–98
Did The Stranger prepare you to become an author and daily newsletter writer for miscmedia.com?
My Stranger work made me well-known among people who want me to work for big-money dot-coms for free.
Do you still like anything you wrote for us?
I still like the pieces I did about the fire that destroyed the Speakeasy Cafe, and about the love/hate relationship of Tacoma to Seattle, “City of Destiny.”
ERIC FREDERICKSEN, PROOFREADER, THEN “HIGHBROW LIBERAL GUY,” THEN BOOKS AND VISUAL ART EDITOR, THEN ARTS EDITOR: 1993–2000
Did all those jobs at The Stranger prepare you to be- come the curator and art consultant you are now?
Yes! I looked at a ton of art, read a lot, and talked with loads of artists and curators—learning on the job. Now most of what I do is working with artists to make new work happen.
Do you have a favorite article you wrote for the paper?
My favorite article is my Sesame Street personal essay.
GEORGE HOWLAND JR., NEWS EDITOR: 1994–99
Where do you work now?
Currently, I am a reporter and columnist at OutsideCityHall.wordpress.com. The Stranger focused me on local news reporting, which has been the basis of my journalism career.
Do you have a favorite piece?
My first big piece of investigative reporting occurred at The Stranger: “Steamed Alive!” looked into the death of a Seattle University student who was found at the bottom of a manhole dead from heat exposure. Sadly, this was before The Stranger had a website.
Any sweet memories?
Wm. Steven Humphrey’s proposed first line of his memoir about The Stranger: “He entered me, roughly.”
EMILY HALL, ART CRITIC, THEN ARTS EDITOR: 1999–2004
Did your job at The Stranger prepare you for your current job?
I still write about art, but my main day job is editing exhibition catalogues for the Museum of Modern Art, in New York, so after five years of criticizing/questioning/bashing institutions I then went to work for one. I’ve been at MoMA for 11 years, and it still feels strange in that regard. It’s a good reminder, though, to resist the banalization of top-down culture.
Do you have any good memories?
The very first time we gave out Genius awards—the only one I was there for—remains an excellent memory. I still think Susan Robb is one of the city’s best and most unusual artists, idiosyncratic in her thinking about what art is and does. (Cue a thousand angry letters.)
EMILY WHITE, EDITOR IN CHIEF: 1995–99
How’d you get the job at The Stranger?
Tim Keck asked me if I had ever been a manager. I said, “No, but I am very bossy.” It is, to this day, the best environment I have ever worked in. When I left the paper to write a book, Savage said, “You are going to miss us.” He was right.
Do you have a favorite memory or story you worked on?
My favorite cover I spearheaded was called “The 37 Least Powerful People in Seattle.” Reporters went into the field and found people who were fine with admitting they were powerless. They signed a release. They talked about what they would do if they were mayor. The cover mimicked the design of glossy magazine “Powerful People” covers.
What do you do now?I am now a writer and teacher. The Stranger definitely prepared me for everything I’ve dealt with in the writing and teaching world.
KATHLEEN WILSON, MUSIC EDITOR, STAFF WRITER, IT’S MY PARTY COLUMNIST: 1995–2004
Did your time at The Stranger prepare you for the job you have now?
Yes and no.
When I was out at shows every night and failing to meet deadlines every day, not even by the most extravagant reach of my imagination could I have pictured myself to be where I am today, living a “sell-out” suburban lifestyle on Mercer Island as the stay-at-home mom of 7-year-old twins. (Who happen to play soccer, thus completing the tableau.)
But the similarities are obvious. I stay up late and get up early. I get the kids out the door, then chase them to the bus stop with something I forgot to put in their backpacks. I feel the same way about driving the four miles it takes to get to the opposite end of the island as I did whenever I had to leave Capitol Hill/downtown to go see a band at the Sunset in Ballard: pissed off, because Jesus God that’s all the way over there. Also—and I say this because the genre basically lasted only a year—dealing with Seattle’s sorehead industrial bands was just like dealing with a couple of babies. Only, my kids shit their actual pants, while an enraged fan of industrial sent me actual shit in the actual mail.
Can you think of a favorite article of yours? Or a favorite Stranger-related memory?
I’d always get the shudders over anything I’d written the moment the paper hit the streets, so no favorite article and excuse me while I go take a sedative. A favorite Stranger-related memory was the handwritten Y2K issue, when we had to go out on New Year’s Eve, have a blowout, and then write about it. Everyone had commemorative ecstasy stamped Y2K, and all of it was bunk. Without mood enhancement the clubs were unbearable, but the night did turn around about the same time four bottles of champagne disappeared from the unguarded kitchen of some yuppie’s house party. I know, for shame. The next morning my penmanship must have been atrocious because the published account had been transcribed by someone else. I have since revisited the Palmer Method, and my penmanship now is as neat as that of any third-grader.