Tuesday, May 29, 2012

An Open Letter: Looking Back, Looking Ahead

Folks -

Effective Friday, I resigned my post as editor of OffBeat Magazine. OffBeat started at the same time that I moved to New Orleans - Summer, 1988 - so it has been a part of my life in New Orleans since I arrived. I started writing for it in 1997, first as a book columnist, then as a book columnist and a rock columnist, then as a features writer and CD reviewer. In 2004, I moved to Gambit to be the music editor, but when Gambit couldn't hire me back after Hurricane Katrina, OffBeat offered me the vacated editor's chair, which I occupied from January of 2006 until days ago.

I can't thank Jan Ramsey and Joseph Irrera enough for the opportunity they gave me. I strengthened my writing and critical voice while working at OffBeat, and my thoughts about many things changed during that time. When I freelanced, I thought the magazine would benefit from broadening its vision to be more inclusive of such aesthetic fellow travelers as regional Americana acts. After a very short time in the editor's chair, I realized that there were always going to be more New Orleans and South Louisiana stories that I'd want to tell than I'd have space for, and folding in Mississippi bluesmen and Texas country artists became a low priority.

Jan and Joseph gave me a platform to explore stories, methods of storytelling, and media for storytelling, and for that I thank them. Most of what I know about technology I learned in the process of trying to solve a problem at the magazine or on its website. Working at OffBeat has given me a reason to think seriously about the role of technology in contemporary media and how it can serve storytelling and community-building needs.

John Swenson recommended me to Jan and Joseph, and for that among many things I thank him. Working at OffBeat also gave me a chance to help tell the story of New Orleans after Katrina, which was important to me at so many levels. In 2006, a writer proposed a column after life in his neighborhood after the storm and floods, and I said yes. The column's debut encountered delays, and in the time when I was waiting for the copy, I realized that every story we did was a post-Katrina story, and that every story we would tell for the next few years would have Katrina as a backdrop whether it was written into the text or not. At that point, I told the writer the yet-to-arrive column wasn't needed anymore. We have covered how the New Orleans music community returned and in what form it has reconstituted itself, and that has been our honor.

The growth and success of the magazine came with a price, though. Working on the magazine, the Weekly Beat and the website forced me to be an editor most of the time and writer when I could squeeze it in. I'm very proud of my work as an editor, but I wanted to get back to a better balance and the thing I've done since I reviewed a Stranglers album in the high school newspaper - write.

At some point in the next two to three weeks, I'll debut MySpiltMilk.com, my website focused on "the cream of New Orleans and beyond." In the meantime, I'll write here. I'm still in business, and you can reach me through Twitter, Facebook, and by writing alex@myspiltmilk.com. My snail mail address is Alex Rawls / 3805 Laurel St. / NOLA 70115 and my phone number's 504-813-1576.

I'm sorry that I won't be working with Ben Berman, Elsa Hahne, Aaron Lafont and Katie Walenter on a daily basis anymore; they've been great colleagues and friends. I'm also privileged to have worked with so many talented writers during my time at OffBeat, but it's time to move on. I look forward to seeing you and/or working with you at MySpiltMilk.com.



thehotel said...

I'm going to miss reading your articles on Offbeat, but I will enjoy reading the new ones on MySpiltMilk.com! Good luck my friend! Skeet Hanks

michael patrick said...

This makes me more nervous than waiting around to see who will move into the tattoo shop now...

But I am also glad for you. I will miss working with you. You taught me a lot, and you always listened to me.

And thanks for not murdering Jan and Joseph. I need the money. The next guy will do it, surely.

John Swenson said...

I am sensing that you are already looking back on the good moments and burying the bad ones. You did a lot to shine a light on a lot of great American music being made in Louisiana and helped some new writers develop their skills in the process. Good luck in your future endeavors.

Alex Rawls said...

Thanks for all the kind thoughts. Between the three of you, the people on Facebook and those who've written me, I need to axe open a few doorframes so I get my inflated ego to the kitchen for dinner.

foryourpleasureradio said...

hard to believe you've been in new orleans 24 years.
i've enjoyed your writings on the offbeat web site when i've checked in and look forward future writings here and at splitmilk.

Cree said...

You did one of the toughest jobs in town and really made your mark, while nurturing a lot of up and comers to make their mark as well. You also allowed longtime contributors like me to spread our wings. Thanks for letting me get that Jazz Fest style feature in before you split, and for parlaying a two-minute conversation we had about Bas Clas into a full-fledged feature in the last issue you edited. I'll be following your next career move(s) with great interest.