A newspaper is not just for reporting the news, it's to get people mad enough to do something about it.
This week's masthead reflects one of the biggest changes at Ace in the past six years, as Susan Saylor Yeary resigned her post as publisher on August 16, shortly after we sent last week's paper to press.
Though her departure seemed sudden to many, the decision had been on her mind for some time.
As she told us last week, she is ready to move on to new projects - probably most significantly, those that will allow her to spend more time with her five-year-old son.
As we all look back on her tenure as publisher, it is clear that Ace would never have gotten to where it is today - a growing Village Voice weekly, with sales, circulation, and readership expanding on a daily basis - without the contributions of Susan Yeary.
Beginning when she and two partners bought the paper from founder Jennie Leavell in 1994, Yeary took a small but beloved arts 'zine and set about the arduous process of wrestling it into a real newspaper (buying out her partners' interests early on).
Reflecting on her first year in the business, Yeary published a New Year's editorial in January 1995. In it, she wrote, "events over the past eight months have been significant and sometimes wholly remarkable. But we also know we're just getting started, so we spend a whole lot of time tracing the path forward, carefully choosing which stones to step on."
She was as good as her word.
Over the next few years, the paper added staff and pages; expanded from a monthly to bi-weekly schedule; and was accepted for membership into the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies in 1998. In March 2000, Ace was purchased by Village Voice Media. In May, the paper expanded to a weekly schedule, changed its name (from Ace Magazine to Ace Weekly), and relocated from North Limestone to larger quarters on the corner of 2nd and Jefferson.
It's fair to say that Ace has had an ambitious six years, and an even more ambitious past six months. Susan Yeary was an integral part of that.
Publishers come in all shapes and sizes. Some are beancounters. Others are sales whizzes. Some are tycoons. Others are hippie reform counterculture capitalists, empire builders, Ben-and-Jerry style millionaires. Some are editors-turned-publishers. Others are wannabe editors seeking a bully pulpit. Still others are dabbling dilettantes. An idealistic few still want to save the world.
There are publishers who guard the integrity of their paper like a mother bear protecting her cubs, and there are those who regularly whore it out to the highest bidder.
There can be no doubt that Susan Yeary was the former.
No paper has ever had a more fierce defender of content.
Joseph Pulitzer was certainly right when he said a newspaper can afford no friends, but there's no denying that those kinds of battles exact an emotional toll. As she wrote in a 1998 publisher's column, "Here in the office, we all have friends who tell us regularly how disappointed they are that Ace doesn't support them or their interests the way friends should - they tell us our job is to support the arts, or historic preservation, or development, or their business interests. And at the risk of losing a lot of fair weather sorts, let me respond by saying... it's not our job, as a newspaper, to be anyone's friend... A depoliticized population deserves exactly what it gets - media that blatantly panders news as a focus-group issue, telling you they report what you want reported or that they're on your side..."
In response to an avalanche of outrage over a controversial cover story, she once wrote, "We're a newspaper. And it's the mission of this paper to present intelligent and provocative content that isn't available in the mainstream media. What's at stake is access to a free and independent press."
Though this is certainly a bittersweet time for the paper, this mission hasn't changed and it never will.
Susan's emotional stake in the paper remains strong, and she wrote to us last week, "The paper has been a huge part of my life for the past six years, and it will always remain very special in my heart." She said it was time, however, to "begin anew."
We send her off with the words of William Randolph Hearst as benediction, "We must be alarmingly enterprising, and we must be startlingly original ... and do new and striking things which constitute a revolution."
We're sure she'll continue to do all those things, as she always has. And wherever the next revolution takes her, we wish her all the success in the world.