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'Austin Chronicle' 24th anniversary redesign; and the politics of Katrina

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Twenty-four years ago this week, we published the first issue of The Austin Chronicle, and suddenly it was not only hell but the beginning of season after season there, without letup. We weren't all that young; I was 30, almost everyone else in their mid- to late 20s or older. Within weeks we looked much, much older but were actually finding out how young, dumb, naive, and unprepared we were for the task. The first issue was 24 pages. It came out during one of the worst weeks in my life specifically because of that issue, but that is another story for another time.

We published biweekly then, which gave us more time to work on every issue, and we needed it because though we shrunk to 20 and even 16 pages, we were outmanned, outgunned, and overwhelmed at the job we had taken upon ourselves. If nothing else, our passion for the city and the Chronicle itself drove us. We survived out of sheer stubbornness born of a deep respect for the Austin tradition of just keeping at it without expectation or ambition. This represents a combination of frontier courage, political commitment, punk self-assuredness, academic insulation, and sheer hippie-bliss ennui (which assumes that moving is always more difficult than staying). Often going on little more than instinct and tenacity, brains essentially sputtered out, we stood our ground and kept on keeping on. We did everything wrong that you could do with a publication – everything! Which is one way of learning all about how to run a new business. Not one that any of us would recommend.

Now more than two decades later, I wonder how things flew by so quickly when they always seemed to be going so slow. I feel it in my body all day – bones ache, plumbing is broken. In my head I just don't feel that different. It's still a mess, confusion reigns, there are noises of all tones, splotches of color, the ongoing events of family and the paper. The paper itself still banging, resisting, dancing, bitching, and caterwauling at 24.

This issue we debut our new look, the 2005 Chronicle redesign. This was very much initiated by the staff, driven by Taylor Holland, Karen Rheudasil Barry, and Liz Osting. (Congratulations, by the way, to Liz and her husband, Tim, on the birth of their daughter, Carmela Sophia Osting!) Nick was very involved in the redesign, but I wasn't. In a way that's scary, the hand is no longer so firm or so firmly on the wheel. In another way, it's the best feeling in the world.

One note: The right-wing talk-show hosts haven't yet figured out how to blame Katrina on the Democrats, but they will. New Orleans is a natural disaster with many human failings contributing to the extent of the damage. Almost scientifically, we've seen the consequence of limited if any environmental zoning; beach protection; wetland preservation; long-term impact, ecologically based planning; and strict building codes. Think of all the right-wing and libertarian ideological arguments against government protection and preservation of the natural environment and in favor of individual property rights. The devastation in overbuilt areas of Florida, Louisiana, and Mississippi makes arguments like "it's a taking," "it's government intervention," and "let the market handle it" all ring fairly hollow right now. In fairness, some of the problem is the kind of massive government public works projects that the right opposes.

But there really is only one solution – massive, big-government intervention with enough support, superstructure, and staff to have an impact. The market wouldn't do it, not comprehensively; too many of these people are poor. One could argue that it's the history of our socialist government that created such a situation where only government can make a difference. But we will laugh at you.

My take is that, besides being the bogey monster that does everything wrong and/or the fascist superstructure run by 10 bankers in tails at a table in Munich, when all is said and done, government is us. It is the way we live and work together. It is also the way we solve a massive national problem when there really are no other means. That's why our ancestors invented government, and it's why we still have it today. end story

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

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Austin Chronicle, redesign, katrina, liz osting, Taylor Holland, Karen Rheudasil Barry

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