Those words were some of the first bestowed upon me when I started working at the Alibi as an intern three years ago. Then News Editor Tim McGivern sat me down on the gnarled couch in his (now my) office, turned down the Tom Waits bellowing from his computer and explained that every story worth telling answers those two basic questions: Why does it matter, and why does it matter right now? I’ve tried to apply that lesson to every story I’ve written since and, in that tradition, I’ll try to do it for this one as well.
The “why now?” is easy. Oct. 9 marks the Alibi’s 15th anniversary. Over the last several days, our editorial staff (including Steven Robert Allen, Laura Marrich, Devin D. O’Leary, Marisa Demarco and Amy Dalness) has thumbed through nearly every page printed in those 15 years and, let me tell you, that body of work feels impressive.
The “so what?” isn’t as easy to define. What has the Alibi accomplished over the last decade and a half? Why do we, the writers and artists and salespeople and administrators, pour ourselves into pushing it out every week? Why do you read it? Why does it matter?
After days of blackening our fingers with newsprint and flipping through articles filled with not just our own but the city’s history, I like to think in the last 15 years the Alibi has accomplished a lot. We’ve launched ourselves into the community with the hope of entertaining and educating, connecting our readers with the creativity, diversity and passion at the gut of this city. We exhaust ourselves for it every week because we love it—the work, the product, what the “alternative” in our name stands for, which isn’t so much progressive politics as it is a symbol of our desire to tell stories other media won’t report, in a way they won’t report them. You read it, we hope, because you enjoy it. And for that last sentence alone, it matters very much indeed.
This reflection has become an emotional endeavor as well. As we celebrate this remarkable anniversary we are also about to lose our editor-in-chief, Steven Robert Allen, who has guided the paper to where it is today. It is poetic irony that this issue is his last, and next week he will leave us for a new job as the executive director of Common Cause New Mexico. Steve possesses all the qualities we could hope for in an editor and a friend, and I know I can speak for all members of the paper when I say he will be missed (even though he’ll only be two blocks away).
Steve’s departure is another score on the Alibi’s history, and our page-flipping sessions have reminded me just how rich that history is. We’ve tried to gather some of our favorite, or at least most memorable, parts of it for your perusal, from a 12-page biweekly started by two fresh-out-of-college kids to the award-winning weekly it has become. We hope you enjoy the journey as much as we have.
Here’s to the next 15 years.
Cover by James Sturm
• On Feb. 1, George H.W. Bush and Boris Yeltsin get drunk together and formally declare the end of the Cold War.
• NuCity publishes its first issue on Oct. 9, a sassy 12-page, black-and-white biweekly with big dreams. A tiny notice on the bottom of page 5 declares: “NuCity needs salespersons. No sales experience necessary, but you must have worked or lived in the real world; must be willing to do a job well—no slackers or corner cutters, we're full already. ... Of course we need other staff, but until there are salespeople there ain't no dough.”
• That first issue includes a coupon for huevos rancheros at Frontier for only $2.54—with free coffee or hot tea.
• The Church of England ordains its first female priests.
• The City of Albuquerque implements a massive water conservation plan.
• Albuquerque Tribune reporter Eileen Welsome wins a Pulitzer Prize for “The Plutonium Experiment,” which documented Americans unknowingly being used in government radiation experiments.
• In April, Nirvana lead singer Kurt Cobain blows his brains out with a shotgun.
• In May, O.J. Simpson is arrested for killing his wife.
Cover by Ralph Steadman
• Tejano music icon Selena is gunned down in a Corpus Christi motel room by Yolanda Saldivar, the president of Selena's fan club.
• Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols kill 168 people with a bomb in the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building of Oklahoma City.
Cover by Jeff Whipple
• It's about damn time! NuCity runs its first Gay Pride issue.
• NuCity runs an epic gonzo interview/narrative between Hunter S. Thompson and two staffers, compiled over six days of insanity. An excerpt:
"3 a.m: We actually have no idea where the animal shelter is.
Norma thinks: That son-of-a-bitch. That controlling bully. I hate him. He's got us running scared in the middle of the night. He could have waited until morning. I'm being punished for some starving animal.
We find the shelter, hidden away behind a maze of office complexes, and drag our sad, terrified hyena from the car and into an outdoor pen lined with hay.
At least we have luck on our side."
• Christopher Reeve, known for his role as Superman, receives a paralyzing spinal chord injury after being thrown from a horse.
• Captain Opinion mysteriously appears in NuCity.
• Chicago publication New City threatens to sue NuCity over its name. Instead of blowing a wad of money on litigation, the paper changes its name to the WeeklyAlibi and throws a big, free party on Saturday, July 22, at El Rey Theater. 750 people attend. Six hundred "Why I Hate Chicago" postcards, addressed to the New City Chicago publisher, are mailed the following Monday.
• Weekly Alibi launches its website, desert.net/alibi (now alibi.com).
• Mathematician and professor Theodore Kaczynski (aka the Unabomber) is arrested, ending a mail-bombing campaign that lasted two decades. BluBlockers and hoodie sweatshirts become a favorite Halloween costume.
• The Hutu-Tutsi conflict in Rwanda ignites. No one in the U.S. seems to notice, much less care.
• Fat Chance closes. So does the Golden West. Live musicgoers of Albuquerque weep.
• Indie movies reign supreme! Films that go on to achieve cult status include Trainspotting, Bottle Rocket, Fargo, Slingblade, Big Night, Swingers, The Birdcage, Leaving Las Vegas, The Craft and Joe's Apartment.
• The Alibi launches its first-ever Summer Guide. Sweaty New Mexicans rejoice.
• Eric Robert Rudolph, an anti-abortion and anti-gay extremist, wounds 111 and kills 2 at the Centennial Olympic Park bombing in Atlanta.
• On April 27, New Mexico becomes the 38th state to have a lottery.
Cover by Ari Brown
• The year of high-profile dying. Princess Diana is killed, apparently while fleeing paparazzi, in a Paris car accident; a nutjob murders Gianni Versace outside the designer's Miami home; and Mother Theresa dies nine days after her 87th birthday.
• The Weekly Alibi sponsorsits inaugural Readers' Choice NuMusic Awards (like Best of Burque for music) and Weekly Alibi Music Awards (WAMmies). The ballot stuffing and live ceremony is held at The Zone, then recorded and rebroadcast on KUNM. Future Alibi publisher Carl Peterson wins the first-ever WAMmie as best local songwriter for his work with the Ant Farmers.
• Scottish scientists clone a lamb. Reports of sheep-related bestiality in Scotland double. (Just kidding.) Meanwhile, Hong Kong is no longer a British colony: Its 6.4 million citizens are now under China's jurisdiction.
• Some albums 1997 Music Editor Michael Henningsen can't live without: Yo La Tengo's I Can Hear the Heart Beating as One, American Analog Set's From Our Living Room to Yours, Smog's Red Apple Falls. And something about Billy Joe Shaver.
• Clinton signs the Telecommunications Act of 1996 and something called The V-Chip goes into TVs. Network and cable channels are required to label their programming with parental-guidance ratings for the first time, while the Internet porn trade flourishes.
Cover by Stephen Ausherman
• In January, Alibi staff writer Stephen Ausherman goes behind enemy lines to report the happenings in Iraq in a two-part feature titled, "A Journey Through Iraq"—three years before 9/11/01.
• In February, Bill Gates gets a pie thrown in his face in Brussels, Belgium.
• Marcy Britton files a lawsuit against Albuquerque Animal Services for cruel euthanasia and animal handling practices resulting in debate, controversy and change surrounding the animal shelters that continues today.
• As advertised in the Weekly Alibi: "Y2K is coming! Great ready—get your needs filled. All foods in stock! No waiting! Preparedness seminars! Survival kits! MREs!"
• Albuquerque Business Times publishes its last issue in June.
• Star Wars: Episode One stuns the sci-fi world silent, but that doesn't keep Film Editor Devin D. O'Leary from linking someone from the cast of every summer film release to the original Luke Skywalker, Mark Hamill.
• Alibi readers vote XTC's Apple Venus Volume 1 as their No. 1 album of the year.
• George W. Bush wins the presidential election (sort of), kicking off 36 days of vote recounts and court challenges.
Cover by Ellen Forney
• Pundits, bloggers, science-fiction authors and people hanging out in coffee shops ignite an argument over whether or not the "new millennium" started in 2000 or 2001. By February, nobody gives a damn.
• The events of Sept. 11 wipe all other stories out of the headlines.
• On Oct. 7, the U.S. begins bombing Afghanistan, which harbored fugitive Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.
Cover by M. Wartella
• Bill Richardson announces his campaign for governor. He later wins the Democratic primary, beating out current Attorney General Gary King and former Land Commissioner Ray Powell. He is elected to office in November.
• Defrocked priest John Geoghan is found guilty of child molestation, sparking national outrage.
• By the end of the year, 12 red-light cameras will be installed at busy Albuquerque intersections and drivers pay out millions in fines.
Cover by M. Wartella
• It's a year of rules. The state bans cockfighting and smoking indoors in public spaces. Albuquerque passes a law against driving while talking on your cell phone. The HEART Ordinance, requiring the spaying and neutering of pets, goes into effect.
• Revivalist burlesque blows up and hundreds attend a showcase of local talent at the KiMo.