funeral for a friend

March 18, 2010

Sad news in the Long Beach alternative news department: The District Weekly has folded. After months of behind the scenes financial troubles (in which freelancers were not being paid) and weeks of employee adjustments (in which core crew members peaced out), one of the main printers of my written words has finally imploded and I could not be more disheartened.

When I moved to Long Beach on Valentine’s Day 2007, I was technically a writer, but with my only published works gracing pages of school-sponsored newspapers, I was hardly a professional. I picked up the first issue of The District Weekly in April of 2007 and was floored by the no-holds-barred writing style that allowed for cynical-and-foul-mouthed-yet-observant writers to tell a unique story in a more unique way. With little understanding of Long Beach politics, history or culture, I became an avid reader of the city’s only alternative weekly and voraciously absorbed every witty line, off-kilter joke and possibly offensive slam at City Hall secretly wishing they would publish my like-minded rantings.

One day in June, infuriated over the inconveniences incurred as a result of the church across the street’s annual carnival, I sent an anonymous letter for inclusion in the paper’s “I, Fink” column. The same week, I was introduced to Chris Ziegler, The District’s music editor at the time, and he told me they were looking for someone to help out with a new-ish music column. I took the gig and a few weeks later, both my anonymous rant and inaugural “Shop Assistant” were printed in the same issue–my first time published in a paper with substantial distribution.

Over the next two years, I wrote concert reviews, business profiles, Long Beach-centric features, an investigative news piece and a cover story about a mall santa. The editors didn’t care that I was only 20 or that I had as much formal training as a Warped Tour band. They saw what I was capable of (even in times when I didn’t) and provided me with a real-world freelance environment that would make any paid summer internship jealous. Together, we expanded my blurted-out comments into sex-issue tell-alls and turned my passion for bikes into universally relevant content; we made chats with my typewriter repair lady about her children “reporting” and made sweet lemonade out of dead-end phone conversation lemons. The District was the paper that not only helped me see the world in a new light, but also taught me how to write about that light. If I do anything productive in the field of journalism, I will gladly say I cut my teeth at The District Weekly in Long Beach.

So thank you Chris, Ellen, Theo, Jenny, Dave, Steve and the Swaims (and everyone else in the office!) for the opportunity to grow as a person and a writer. Whether you know it or not, I owe you a shitton.

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