Right by my desk, I keep a little booklet with every cover story we’ve ever published. So when a reader wants to know when we ran that one story about, you know, that silent movie star who had a zoo up at Priest Lake, I can say, “Easy: Nell Shipman. Issue No. 354. August 24, 2000.”
I don’t always let people in on my publisher’s little helper, which makes them think I have it all in my head. But how could I? We just passed the 1,000-issue mark. In cover stories alone, that’s like writing War and Peace — six times over. Whew!
So to mark the moment, I paged through the years and jotted down some thoughts.
Inlander No. 1 hit the streets on Oct. 20, 1993, with stories on hip new places like Boo Radley’s and Carnegie Square. Thus our weekly treadmill started.
No. 29 marked the 20th anniversary of… Expo ’74. (Yes, that does make me feel old.)
For Inlander No. 98, “In the Shadow of Giants,” we introduced an idea I think The Inlander has been preaching for a while: This is a great place to live, so we need to drop all the Spokane Syndrome moping around and, as our interior headline put it, “Grow Up!”
We hit No. 114 in December of ’95 and somehow finagled Spokane native Kitty Kelly to contribute to our “Boomers Look Back on the 1950s” story. Long story short, I got to transcribe a rambling, teary interview with Ms. Kelly and cut it down to size into the wee hours. Apparently talking it out inspired her to write it herself, and the next morning I found her polished manuscript on my fax machine. (Remember those?)
No. 116: “Smallest Issue Ever” with just 20 pages.
I’ll never forget No. 161 — not only was it a great story on local legend Dan Fitzgerald, but it was also the day of Ice Storm ’96. Got the paper to bed, and while driving home I happened to notice there were no lights on — like anywhere, except around our West Central office.
We knew No. 292 was coming — we knew George Nethercutt would break his term limits pledge, and when he did we plastered it on the cover. Funny thing is, now he’s our columnist.
No. 325 marked my all-time favorite interview: the late Gypsy icon Jimmy Marks, who stood and pounded his fists on my desk and bellowed at me for two hours. I would have called security… if we had any. Jimmy calmed down, and we became friends to the tune of about five Jimmy voicemails per day.
One of our most memorable issues wasn’t an issue at all — call it Inlander No. 409.5. As we all remember, Sept. 11, 2001, was a Tuesday. That was our deadline day, so we had minimal coverage. By later in the week, however, we had cranked out an “Extra” edition — just like in the old movies. People were desperate for information, and we published archived interviews from partner publications with a mysterious Arab named Osama bin Laden.
We spilled a lot of ink around here on the River Park Square wars, and my favorite was No. 527 — “The Two Towers,” which depicted the Spokesman-Review tower and the Metropolitan Mortgage tower in a Lord of the Rings style. And The Two Towers movie came out that very week! Synergy, people.
For No. 636, in early 2006 (that’s B.C. — before the cratering of the economy), we ran a cover story on “The Condo Craze.” Then, for No. 737 we ran “Inside the Housing Bubble,” followed by “Foreclosed!” for No. 798 in March of ’09.
We probably should have skipped Issue No. 666, the way they do with 13th floors, but we went ahead with it. Oddly enough, that cover featured Ted Nugent, aka “Citizen Nuge,” who I still have on my iPod. (Did I mention I grew up in Spokane?)
No 685: The Inlander goes full color on every page.
For No. 742, we arm-twisted beloved local author Jess Walter into investigating the connection between Dashiell Hammett and the Davenport Hotel in “Sam Spade’s Spokane.” Would a Maltese Falcon statue somewhere downtown be too much to ask?
Inlander No. 847 launched our ongoing “Injustice Project,” spearheaded by our fearless Editor Jacob Fries. Speaking for those who have no voice, challenging authority when it’s out of bounds — those are the hallmarks of a proper newspaper. When I see our “Injustice Project” stories, I know we’re doing our job. (Just recently, three local men had their sentences overturned after being featured in an “Injustice Project” story.)
For No. 849, I got to write about my own grandfather, Joe Peirone. It was the money he made in a lifetime of hard work here in Spokane that gave us a chance to start a business. I figured I could hog one cover story for something personal — but it turns out, people loved it. A lot of us seem to have a Grandpa Joe in our lives.
Is it me, or are they going faster now? It’s like a blur of Best Ofs, Give Guides and Snowlanders. Seems like just a couples weeks ago we were picking the “Best-Ever Inland Northwest Athletes” (No. 924), or putting a simple, beautiful portrait of Otto Zehm on the cover (No. 934), or highlighting the vitality of our local music scene (No. 966). Yes, 20 years after the first Inlander, we have a vital music scene, proved by the multitudes that flooded downtown Spokane for our Volume concerts last spring.
And if I had to pick just one word out of the 1,001 issues cranked out, that would be it: Vitality. That’s what we’ve been pushing since the very beginning. Don’t just stand there, Inland Northwest: Do something!
Maybe our readers took old No. 98 to heart. Our region has grown up. A lot. And so has The Inlander.
Ted S. McGregor Jr. is the publisher of The Inlander. He and his brother, Jer, and mom, Jeanne, founded the paper in 1993. The paper turns 20 in October.