The first edition of Westword hit the streets of Denver in September 1977. Over the past 35 years, Westword has gone through many changes — as has the publishing industry in general, and the alternative-newspaper industry in particular. But our basic mission has not changed: to cover (and sometimes uncover) the important stories in the city where we live, the city we love.
And today we're pursuing that mission with new energy, as part of a new publishing company. A new publishing company with very familiar names and faces. Scott Tobias, who's heading the new company, got his start at Westword in 1993, back when our office was in LoDo, across the street from the Wynkoop Brewing Company, the state's first brewpub, which had been founded five years earlier by a group of partners that included an unemployed geologist named John Hickenlooper. "I was a salesperson in a cube with nothing but a phone book," Tobias remembers. "We didn't even have computers back then."
Westword had been sold a decade before that to the founders of Phoenix New Times, a weekly in Arizona; the company went on to acquire weekly papers in major markets across the country, including the oldest alternative in the country, New York's Village Voice, in 2005.
Led by Tobias, senior managers of what had become Village Voice Media Holdings have purchased Westword and its dozen partner papers, as well as their websites and other publishing platforms, from that owner (which will keep ownership of backpage.com). These properties are now part of a new publishing company, Voice Media Group, that will be based in Denver. "We're excited about that, proud of that. Denver's a great city and a great place for this company to be headquartered," says Tobias, who's been fielding media calls. After all, who invests in newspapers these days?
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People who believe in the power of a local product, and who aren't afraid of delivering that product for free. "The response has been really fair and really positive. This is a grassroots buyout by a team of managers who've been in place a long time, some for twenty years," Tobias says. "As a company — not only here in Denver, but across the country — our relationships are so real and so deep. These advertisers are our friends and family. We were the first to introduce them to print, to introduce them to the web, to all our other platforms, and now our sponsored events."
Events like the Westword Music Showcase, Denver's biggest one-day festival of local music; Dish, our drinks-and-dining event that just celebrated its eighteenth year; and Artopia, a celebration of the arts that is set for the Golden Triangle in February 2013, when we'll introduce our ninth class of MasterMinds. But the foundation of Voice Media Group will remain solid journalism, with stories that put readers in touch with the city where they live, the city they love. No matter by what medium — smartphone, web, print — those stories are delivered.
"Growth, in some curious way, I suspect, depends on being always in motion just a little bit, one way or another," said renowned novelist Norman Mailer, a founder of the Village Voice.
Onward and upward.