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Class of '93 

by THE INLANDER & r & & r & & lt;span class= "dropcap " & F & lt;/span & or me, 1993 really started in the summer of 1990. Sitting in my apartment in Columbia, Mo., I was finishing my master's degree in journalism at the University of Missouri. For my final project, I decided to create a business plan to launch a weekly newspaper on my hometown of Spokane. I called it The Pacific Northwest Inlander.





And over the next few years, as I worked in Seattle then Boston, that report -- like all good college projects -- sat on my bookshelf, gathering dust. But then something funny happened: It started to call out to me. I'd open it up, flip through the pages -- eventually I couldn't put it down. So by the actual year of 1993 -- July to be exact -- my wife, Anne, and I had moved back to Spokane, a place I hadn't lived in since graduating from Gonzaga Prep in 1983. And there, in the basement of my old house on East 18th Avenue, I really got busy. I remember telling my old classmates at my 10-year high school reunion that I was going to start a newspaper -- I got a lot of "Sure you are!" and "Good luck with that..." looks.





I convinced my brother, Jeremy, to join me in the effort, and together we recruited somebody we knew would be dedicated more than anyone else: our mom, Jeanne.





Then it was a blur -- office space, office furniture (thank you, Crescent going-out-of-business auction!), phones, newspaper racks, computers, writers, salespeople. Soon our launch date came into view -- Oct. 20, 1993. All-nighters ensued, our 28-page masterpiece was late coming off the presses and we recruited everybody we knew with a pickup truck to help put the papers out all over the city. (Even though we printed 26,000 copies, only 11,000 early-adapters picked one up. This week, we printed 46,000 papers.)





Back at the office, we all felt like we had just rolled the first Model T off the assembly line. But our back-slapping reverie was short-lived, as one of us just had to say it: "Wow, now we have to do another one -- but this time we only have a week!"





It was a whirlwind year. After our first cover story about managing growth (complete with a cover photo taken from an airplane), we moved on to a story about the latest food craze: consumption of expensive coffee drinks. We wrote about horse racing at Playfair, prostitution on West First, a zany new shop called Boo Radley's and how a local couple -- Ron and Julie Wells -- was out and about saving old buildings. As 1993 wore on, we covered a hot new local writer by the name of Sherman Alexie, the it-band, Black Happy, and how a surprising influx of Russians were moving to town. We wrote about the idea for a Davenport Arts District, how many wineries were popping up and even ran a profile on Coeur d'Alene mogul Duane Hagadone.





As 1994 dawned, we had 11 issues in the books; right now, you're holding Inlander No. 777 in your hands.





It's been a great ride, and along the way we sincerely hope we've made our region a little better place. We never could have done it without the excellent Inlander team we've had over the years -- the names have changed, but the dedication has always kept this paper coming out fresh and vital every week. And of course we have to thank our advertisers -- all those who believed that we could deliver customers and help them succeed. Which leads, of course, to you -- yes, you! -- dear reader. Without you picking up the paper every week, and using it as a guide for your life here in the Inland Northwest, we wouldn't have made it past the Clinton administration.





So thanks to you all, and enjoy this look back on the past 15 years as we all look forward to the next 15 -- and beyond!





-- TED S. McGREGOR JR.





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1994


& lt;span class= "dropcap " & I & lt;/span & N THE INLANDER In February, we devoted a cover story to ruminating about the future of a thing called the "information superhighway" -- "one day every television will be transformed ... into a personal computer terminal." (Fourteen years later, and this still hasn't exactly come to pass.) Then there was the story about Coeur d'Alene emerging as the Vegas-style wedding capital of the Inland Northwest. In April, we published the first "Best of the Inland Northwest" issue (Sacred Heart Medical Center's Cafeteria won "best place to grab a quick bite" and the Magic Lantern won best movie theater). In June, as the weather started to improve, we explored the start-up wineries around Washington. In the fall, reporters moved their attention to the "shows that will save television," including Wings, Melrose Place and Talk Soup. Finally, as the year wound down, we examined the future of the Davenport Hotel after an underground oil spill sidetracked restoration efforts.





ELSEWHERE Nationally, Newt Gingrich and the Republicans staged a "revolution," grabbing more than 50 seats in the House of Representatives. Unfortunately, Bill Clinton also signed the Assault Weapons Ban, outlawing certain weapons for 10 years. Meanwhile, football legend O.J. Simpson fled police in his white Ford Bronco and, in a strange twist, figure skating grabbed the sports spotlight after Tonya Harding's ex-husband clubbed Nancy Kerrigan's right leg. In Africa, two divergent stories played out: in Rwanda, a brutal genocide struck down 800,000 people; and in South Africa, apartheid ended with the election of Nelson Mandela.





GRUNGE Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain was found dead in Seattle on April 8, the victim of a self-inflicted shotgun blast to the head.





1995


& lt;span class= "dropcap " & I & lt;/span & N THE INLANDER The microbrew craze hit the Inland Northwest and we at The Inlander celebrated and celebrated... and celebrated -- and finally told our readers about the growing scene in a February cover story. After sobering up, in March, we covered the "assault on the arts," telling the insider story of how a conservative Congress was slicing arts funding under the guise of cutting the budget. Then it was onto the zoo: Walk in the Wild was given an eviction notice and, notably, few locals rushed to help, prompting the clever question, "Is it just Spok-apathy?" In the June 14 issue, we reported the Spokane City Council's approval of the public/private partnership to develop River Park Square (it was just the beginning of what would become countless stories). Then we hit Riverside to find out why the hell so many crazy kids cruised that stretch of road.





ELSEWHERE Mexico's financial system collapsed, prompting President Bill Clinton to offer an emergency $20 billion loan. (Sounds familiar.) On Feb. 23, the Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 30 points to close, for the first time ever, above 4,000. Timothy McVeigh and one of his accomplices, Terry Nichols, set off a bomb in Oklahoma City, killing 168 people. In the summer, a heat wave settled over the Midwest for five days and more than 700 people died in Chicago. In September, the Washington Post and the New York Times published the Unabomber's manifesto. Then in October, a jury found O.J. Simpson innocent in the double murder of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman.





BEST PICTURE And the award goes to... Braveheart.





1996


& lt;span class= "dropcap " & I & lt;/span & N THE INLANDER In January, in a cover story titled "Minority Opinion," we looked at what it's like to be black in pasty-white Spokane, borrowing in large part from the stories of a local attorney and a student at North Central High School. Then it was a special report, "The Techno Trap," where we brought a skeptical eye to whether this thing called the World Wide Web was really going to pan out. In the same issue, we reported on the Coeur d'Alene band, Shoveljerk, predicting the group was about to hit the big time. (We can't always be right.) In March, we wrote about 20 people under age 40 changing the face of Spokane, including Dan Spalding, artist and force behind David's Pizza (and the same Dan Spalding behind Zola). Then Ice Storm '96 hit the region, reminding us of nature's awesome power. To forget that lesson, in December's Gift Guide, we recommended the variety pack of microbrews from the Viking Tavern.





ELSEWHERE The Seattle SuperSonics made it to the NBA Championship, only to lose to Michael Jordan's Chicago Bulls. Republicans nominated Bob Dole for president along with running mate Jack Kemp. In July, Europe-bound TWA Flight 800 exploded off the coast of Long Island, New York, killing everyone onboard. Alanis Morissette won Album of the Year at the 38th annual Grammy Awards. Guatemala and the leaders of the Guatemalan National Revolutionary Union signed a peace deal ending a 36-year civil war. And Dolly the sheep, the first mammal to be successfully cloned from an adult cell, was born in Scotland.





ARRESTS On April 3, "Unabomber" Theodore Kaczynski was arrested at his Montana cabin.





1997


& lt;span class= "dropcap " & I & lt;/span & N THE INLANDER We wrote about potholes -- "driving in the Inland Northwest has been like traversing an Eastern bloc country" -- a topic, it seems, for the ages. In February, we went behind the scenes of Dante's Peak, the Pierce Brosnan film shot in Wallace, Idaho, and then ventured deep into the divisions between the city's police department and the black community. In May, we published a preview of the upcoming summer blockbusters: Contact, starring Jodie Foster; Con Air, with Nicolas Cage; and Men in Black, with Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones. And in May, we went beneath the surface of Lake Coeur d'Alene to understand the region's history of mining and the heavy metals it left behind. Finally, in the last issue of the year, we previewed WSU's trip to the Rose Bowl to play Michigan's Wolverines. (The Cougs lost, 21-16.)





ELSEWHERE Madeleine Albright became the first female Secretary of State, and President Clinton barred federal funding for human cloning research. Tony Blair was appointed prime minister of the United Kingdom; in August, Princess Diana died after a car crash in a Paris tunnel. The next month, Mother Teresa died of heart failure in India. In San Diego, 39 Heaven's Gate cultists died in a mass suicide at their compound. Then, as if to counter all this death, a woman in Iowa gave birth to septuplets.





BLOCKBUSTER Titanic, starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet, became the highest-grossing film of all time.





1998


& lt;span class= "dropcap " & I & lt;/span & N THE INLANDER In February, we wrote up the area's power couples, including Elisha and Lonnie Mitchell, pastor of Bethel AME Church in Spokane, along with Bob and Joan Welch, founders of Interplayers. The following month, it was a multi-story report on Spokane's waste-to-energy incinerator, examining pollution and failures of oversight. We also covered the story of Billy Tipton, the jazz musician who for decades lived as a man only to be outed as a woman upon her death. In July, we started stoking up the Y2K craze with a story headlined, "Day of Reckoning." And later the same month, we observed a new phenomenon in America, "Pill Popper Nation," in which prescription drug use was skyrocketing and "feeling better comes in a tiny, easy-to-swallow package." Soon we all felt like dancing and -- bang! -- the swing revival hit the Inland Northwest: "Whatever it is, swing music is back...."





ELSEWHERE A bad year for Bill Clinton. On Jan. 12, Paula Jones accused him of sexual harassment. The next week, the Monica Lewinsky scandal blew up, prompting Clinton to deny "sexual relations" with the White House intern. In an unrelated development, the Food and Drug Administration approved Viagra to treat male impotence. In August, bombings linked to Osama bin Laden hit U.S. embassies in Tanzania and Kenya, killing more than 200 people. The next month, Stanford kids Larry Page and Sergey Brin founded Google. In Minnesota, Jesse "The Body" Ventura was elected governor.





PHENOMENON The Pokemon came to the U.S. and took over the brains of millions.





-- Jacob Fries





1999


& lt;span class= "dropcap " & I & lt;/span & N THE INLANDER Looking back, way back into a previous millennium, sometimes shows eerie parallels to now. It's like Nostradamus. For instance, although they probably didn't have annoying commercials and crawlers about it, KXLY-TV goes on the air with HDTV March 26, 1999. It's an experiment. "We really don't expect many homes to be able to receive this," Engineering Director Tom Anderson says... right, not without that damn converter box. Also, the Police Guild makes news for trying to run off newly hired Spokane Police Chief Alan Chertok. By mid-year, they succeed. In our Where-Are-They-Now Dept.: All you hot chicks photographed squeezing breasts and buttocks in the body contouring advertisements, come see me. Let's catch up. We marked the anniversaries of Expo '74 (25th) and the Centennial Trail (10th) while looking ahead to a new convention center after Gov. Gary Locke signs a sales tax rebate into law. Finally, from our How'd-That-Work-for-Ya Dept.: Members of the Spokane City/County Y2K Task Force say, "The lack of public interest in Y2K is distressing ... We hold public meetings and very few people come. I'm afraid this time next year millions of people will be asking, 'Why didn't our leaders tell us about this!?'"





ELSEWHERE The Earth gets more crowded with the U.N. announcing the world's six billionth person is born in Sarajevo. Two of those people become problematic world leaders still on the scene a decade later -- Hugo Chavez in Venezuela and Vladimir Putin in Russia.





Notable passings: Director Stanley "2001" Kubrick, Chicago Bears great running back Walter "Sweetness" Payton and the novelist Joseph "Catch-22" Heller. Lance Armstrong wins his first Tour de France. It's no joke when the country of Nunavut is created on April 1. In our Field-of-(Broken)-Dreams Dept.: Safeco Field opens July 15.





Sign the Apocalypse is Still Not Upon Us: The price of a Whammy at Dick's Hamburgers is 97 cents.





2000


& lt;span class= "dropcap " & I & lt;/span & N THE INLANDER Spokane's most famous curse-placer, Jimmy Marks, is at the center of an acclaimed documentary (American Gypsy: A Stranger in Everybody's Land) that highlights the second annual Spokane Northwest Film Festival. New York documentary filmmaker Jasmine Dellal attends the screening and the Marks clan arrives by stretch limo and parades through the packed Met. Less than seven months after the opening of River Park Square, the parking garage begins to hemorrhage money and The Inlander investigates how so many consultants could be so wrong. A rich history of African-American presence in Spokane is revealed when Gonzaga University exhibits the work of one of the city's rare black professional photographers, Wally Hagin. From our Five-Names-You-Guess-the-Context Dept.: Mike Nilson, Axel Dench, Richie Frahm, Ryan Floyd and Matt Santangelo. Yes, they are the seniors on GU's Sweet 16 finish in the NCAA men's basketball tournament. There are so many stories on the Zags in March that one staffer grumps in print about too much hype. With the strong mayor question settled, we move on to coverage of the growing power of neighborhood councils and electing city council by district. And we learn that rising gas prices lead more people to bicycle commuting.





ELSEWHERE In the Chinese calendar, the Year of the Dragon. Top al-Qaeda members, including two of the 9/11 hijackers, meet in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, in early January. Pop! Goes the Wall Street: The dot.com bubble peaks with the Dow Jones at 11,722.98. A few days later, Rage Against the Machine plays outside of Wall Street and brings the market to an early close. The constitution of Finland is rewritten. The Russian submarine Kursk sinks in the Barents Sea, killing 118 crewmen.





Sign the Apocalypse is Still Not Upon Us: Price of a Whammy at Dick's Hamburgers is $1.07.





2001


& lt;span class= "dropcap " & I & lt;/span & N THE INLANDER In our So-How'd-That-Work-Out Dept: We run a cover story predicting H.R. Pufnstuf is due for a big comeback. Bob Herold offers advice to the mayor. The Inlander's small news staff digs into several big stories with frequent, lengthy and well-reported pieces on the twists and turns of River Park Square; the epidemic of home-cooked methamphetamine that endangers children and ruins houses; and takes a critical look at Spokane's Waste-To-Energy plant as well as one proposed near Bonners Ferry by the Kootenai Tribe, which is later withdrawn after much protest. And in a story about layoffs cutting the newsroom to 150, Spokesman-Review management tells us the paper will "remain one of the country's top papers of its size [which keeps changing]."





In our She-Nailed-It! Dept.: Nicole Attenburg, asked in a May 3 People On the Street column if Bush is doing a good job, replies, "I'd say it's questionable ... I don't have a lot of confidence in his foreign policy." We marvel in print about these shiny crazy future things such as iTunes. And we start getting some of that Cowles money in an ad campaign featuring local notables such as Walt Worthy above the tagline: "River Park Square. It's a net gain for our community."





In the How-Alt-Can-We-Go Dept.: We continue to publish a gardening column. Mulch, mulch, baby.





ELSEWHERE The Nisqually Earthquake, measured at magnitude 6.9 but causing no deaths, strikes Western Washington Feb. 28. Call it 3/11: Timothy McVeigh is executed. The world as we knew it changes profoundly on 9/11. U.S. military forces invade Afghanistan Oct. 7, the Taliban abandon Kabul by Oct. 12 as Northern Alliance troops advance. Microsoft Xbox and Nintendo GameCube are released three days apart in mid-November. Our thumbs have never been stronger.





Sign the Apocalypse is Still Not Upon Us: Price of a Whammy at Dick's Hamburgers is $1.25.





2002


& lt;span class= "dropcap " & I & lt;/span & N THE INLANDER Spokane's persistent budget shortfall skyrockets into $6 million crisis with deep cuts to police and fire departments that are still felt today. Spokane Valley, meanwhile, becomes more than a gleam in Dick Behm's eye as the fifth and latest incorporation effort gains major mo and passes the next year. The Inlander offers solutions to a struggling, angsty region with a series of stories expounding upon Richard Florida's notion of a creative class. In our Wheels-of-Government Dept.: We have a story on Photo-Red cameras coming to town as soon as a few details are hashed out. Walt Worthy is praised in these pages for "audacious risk taking the city needs more of" when the Davenport reopens. Inlander readers get a nine-page tour. Staff also explores the darker side of Spokane with an assessment of cancer rates, MS and asthma and examination of some of the local environmental issues driving disease rates. And speaking of impacts, we try to determine the real costs of Wal-Mart's Inland Northwest expansion plus sharp questioning on how the aquifer is affected by a spate of gas-fired power plants proposed for the Rathdrum Prairie. In our Wheels-of-Government II Dept.: We sit down with Eloise Cobell on the $12 billion lawsuit over mismanaged federal Indian Trust Funds. Zag fans start loving the hustle of the Caribbean kid, Ronny Turiaf.





ELSEWHERE On Jan. 13, President George W. Bush faints after choking on a pretzel. From our The-More-Things-Change Dept.: After a terrible summer, the Dow Jones Industrial Average closes Oct. 9 at 7,286.27, its lowest level in five years.





Sign the Apocalypse is Still Not Upon Us: Price of a Whammy at Dick's Hamburgers is $1.55.





2003


& lt;span class= "dropcap " & I & lt;/span & N THE INLANDER War clouds gather above Iraq, but here we launch a yearlong project titled Growing Up Healthy, exploring topics from birth through childhood. Locals up to interesting things appear throughout the year, from Doug Beane helping to rebuild Afghanistan with Church World Services, and how an "almost hippie" Don Barbieri guided WestCoast Hospitality into a player on the national corporate scene.





Portraits of Sandpoint and Coeur d'Alene reveal the tug-of-war between growth and preserving open space and a city's sense of place. It's soooo 2002, but we continue the push to ignite discussion on a creative class with a Gospel According to Richard Florida. From our Wheels-of-Government Dept.: Spokane County frets that rapid urbanization may eat up sewage treatment capacity by 2007 and plans are afoot to build a wastewater treatment plant, which is still on the drawing board.





ELSEWHERE Space Shuttle Columbia disintegrates over Texas on Feb. 1, killing all seven astronauts, including Cheney's Michael P. Anderson. Oklahoma beats the Cougs 34-14 in the Rose Bowl, Jan. 1.


U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix says Feb. 28 there is no evidence that Iraq has weapons of mass destruction; the U.S. leads the invasion of Iraq on March 19. On May 1, President George W. Bush lands on the USS Abraham Lincoln under a large banner proclaiming "Mission Accomplished!" and declares major combat over in Iraq. Saddam Hussein is captured Dec. 13.





In late January, NASA makes final contact with Pioneer 10, which is 7.5 billion miles from Earth. The first man-made object to leave the solar system, Pioneer 10 bears messages of greeting in several languages and pictographs fitted onto a gold-anodized aluminum plaque.





Sign that Even the Invading Space Aliens Guided Here By Pioneer 10 Might Enjoy Spokane: Price of a Whammy at Dick's Hamburgers is $1.69.





-- Kevin Taylor





2004


& lt;span class= "dropcap " & I & lt;/span & N THE INLANDER Politics claimed a lot of our ink in this presidential election year. But it wasn't just Kerry battling Bush, with Cathy McMorris running for her first term in Congress, two county commissioner seats wide open, and an impossibly close race to take Gary Locke's place in Olympia. Jim West was flexing his pre-scandal mayoral muscle, eventually shepherding through a historic street bond initiative. Meanwhile, the City Council was unsettlingly quiet and peaceable. We raised questions about what to do with Joe Albi and the Playfair site (questions that remain open today) and marveled as gas prices rose to $2.15 (!). In two separate cover stories, we worried about boom times in North Idaho. On our other covers, we wrote about the preponderance of downtown surface parking lots, Spokane in the Cold War era, a police standoff at Lewis and Clark High School, teen homelessness, and taking back your personal time by killing your cell phone -- a notion that seems almost quaint in today's world of iPhones, MySpace, Facebook and Twitter.





ELSEWHERE Historians will no doubt record 2004 as being the crappiest year of the early 21st century. Tragedy, brutality and conniving abounded. George W. Bush lost the popular vote but won his second term in office. Bombs set off on Madrid commuter trains killed 191 people. American contractors in Iraq suffered some of the worst -- and most public -- violence of the war. American soldiers in Iraq inflicted some of the worst -- and most public -- torture of the war, at Abu Ghraib. Ukrainian presidential candidate Viktor Yuschenko was nearly poisoned to death. Eleven states banned gay marriage. Then, to end what was already a total bitch of a year, 187,000 people were killed in a tsunami that rocked the Indian Ocean.





ON THE BRIGHT SIDE At least the Red Sox finally won.





2005


& lt;span class= "dropcap " & I & lt;/span & N THE INLANDER The year was looking pretty quiet until May. We busied ourselves writing about Ward Churchill and Ron Jeremy at Eastern, about women in the Spokane business community, Get Lit! (Salman Rushdie and David Sedaris!) and Jess Walter's new book, Citizen Vince. Then two events took over the news cycle for the rest of the year: Jim West was outed by the Spokesman-Review (for what we still don't exactly know), and Joseph Duncan killed three people outside Coeur d'Alene before kidnapping Dylan and Shasta Groene. Details in both cases shocked and outraged the community, for various reasons and to various degrees. The latter is only now being resolved. (Duncan was given a death sentence in federal court in August.) The former flared up quickly, with community leaders, politicians and media outlets (including this one) opining on West's deeds -- having sex with young but legal men, possibly abusing the powers of his office -- and calling for his resignation. West refused to resign but was voted out of office in a special election brought out about by the work of a citizen activist. West was replaced by council president Dennis Hession -- in comparison, a total bore.





ELSEWHERE Two weeks after George W. Bush is sworn in for his second term of office, the Patriots beat the Eagles in Super Bowl 39. Yeah, America! It was a year of revelations: Deep Throat turned out to be former FBI man Mark Felt, the new pope turned out to be a former member of the Hitler Youth, and Tom DeLay turned out to be a crook. It was a year of disasters, too, and not only because the NHL canceled its season. In July, explosions in the London Underground and on a public bus killed 56 and injured 700. Six weeks later, third-category Hurricane Katrina plowed into southeast Louisiana, nearly destroying New Orleans and killing almost 2,000. In October, the American death toll in Iraq reaches the same number.





THE HAPPIEST OLD FARTS ON EARTH In July, Disneyland turned 50. Celebrating the same milestone that month were Jimmy Smits, Willem Dafoe and Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee.





2006


& lt;span class= "dropcap " & I & lt;/span & N THE INLANDER This year couldn't match 2005 for political scandal and intrigue in Spokane, but it wasn't without its big headlines. For one, Jim West died after being recalled from office and lashing out at the Spokesman-Review. But even that was overshadowed by the story of Otto Zehm, a mentally challenged janitor who died in police custody, raising questions of police brutality and protocol. Other intrigue: The sudden resignation of Sheriff Mark Sterk, the firing of public health director Kim Thorburn, the parking garage death of Jo Savage, the Bernard Street trees fiasco, the Great Sonic Drive-In/Sonic Burrito War and the closure of several key downtown music venues. Adam Morrison left town, but the Magic Lantern theater came back (at least for a while). On our cover, we heard from the Idaho National Guard in Iraq, explored the Christian environmental movement, documented the downtown "condo craze," investigated the suspicious death of regional light rail and learned what it was like to be Russian in Spokane.





ELSEWHERE Pluto was demoted to a dwarf planet, and Republicans were demoted to a dwarf party, as a wave of anti-Bush/Republican sentiment washes Democrats into control of Congress for the first time since 1994. (Could Ted Haggard's dalliances with meth and male prostitutes have had anything to do with it?) The world celebrated a mostly uneventful Winter Olympics in Turin, did a spit-take over a massive Holocaust (denial) conference in Iran and tried not to cheer overtly when Saddam Hussein was executed. The Miami Heat won the NBA Finals during the International Year of Deserts and Desertification, while Samuel Alito withstood congressional heat to take Sandra Day O'Connor's seat on the Supreme Court.





FEELING BLUE Seattle Seahawks fans thought that once -- just this once -- the boys in blue would be able to cash in on years of potential. Nope. The 'Hawks blew their first-ever Super Bowl appearance in a 21-10 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers.





2007


& lt;span class= "dropcap " & I & lt;/span & N THE INLANDER The newspaper started the year with a bang -- debuting a TV column, expanding the music section and celebrating its move to full color in grand fashion, with a cover image of music editor Luke Baumgarten in glaring, garish neon Spandex. For four weeks, Baumgarten chronicled his "Super-Intense, Inlander-funded, New Year's Resolution Weight Loss Miracle." For the rest of the year, we chronicled the low-income housing crisis -- as residents at two seedy downtown apartments were pushed out for condo renovation -- and the elections at City Hall. It was a year for underdogs, as Mary Verner upset establishment incumbent Dennis Hession for the mayor's office, but only after an upstart neighborhood group made trouble for Hession's campaign with noise over garbage pickup. Peaceful Valley residents, too, were able to thwart a condo tower that would've loomed over their neighborhood. It was also a green year, with enviro-minded candidates Verner and Richard Rush making it to City Hall, biking finally taking off in Spokane and developer Jim Sheehan unveiling renovations to the super-green, gold-certified Saranac building.





ELSEWHERE A student at Virginia Tech went on the bloodiest rampage in American history, and Michael Vick was arrested for conducting dogfights. Internationally, things were even hairier. Tibetans staged massive protests against China, Pakistani hero Benazir Bhutto was assassinated and Time magazine named Vladimir Putin its Person of the Year as Russia re-asserted its familiar role as a global superpower. In light of the tenuous state of world, Boston was forgiven for totally freaking out when guerilla marketers slapped bomb-looking ads for Aqua Teen Hunger Force all over town. We would've laughed, but Kurt Vonnegut died and all the TV writers were on strike.





GREEN PEACE? In a year of international anxiety and war, Al Gore won the Nobel Peace Prize for making a documentary about global warming. WTF?





2008


& lt;span class= "dropcap " & I & lt;/span & N THE INLANDER Our coverage so far this year has been dominated by politics and the rising cost of everything. We've covered the rematch between Christine Gregoire and Dino Rossi, the state conventions in Spokane, local visits by Hillary Clinton and Michelle Obama and the diehard campaign of Ron Paul. As the economy has slumped, we've looked at how it affects Spokane businesses and nonprofits, how it has hit the housing market, and what the slump's implications have been worldwide.





But it hasn't been all gloom and drama. We've also found time to write about roller derby, Spokane's burgeoning bike culture, rickshaw races (in a cover story that offered 33 ways to make the city a better place) and 20 people under 30 who are doing kick-ass work in Spokane. We published our first-ever Bar Guide, our biggest-ever issue (128 pages!), our fourth annual celebration of local music, a Jess Walter-penned look at Spokane through the eyes of crime novelist Dashiell Hammett and one of our most popular Hoopfest stories ever (which saw several editors in short shorts and ultimate defeat on the blacktop).





ELSEWHERE National coverage so far this year has been dominated by politics and the rising cost of everything, as Americans picked Barack Obama and John McCain as the two best candidates to deal with wars in two countries and the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. McCain, in turn, picked Alaska governor Sarah Palin as his expert on energy in a year that has seen escalating tensions with Iran, Russia and North Korea. If hurricanes Gustav and Hanna and the activation of the Large Hadron Collider didn't kill us all, the Republicans still might.





NOTABLE DEATHS SO FAR: Paul Newman, Heath Ledger, Isaac Hayes and the foul-mouthed George Carlin, who said, "In America, anyone can become president. That's the problem."





-- JOEL SMITH





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LOOKING BACK... AND AHEAD


& lt;span class= "dropcap " & A & lt;/span & nytime you hit a milestone, like 15 years of publishing, it's important to pause and take stock of where you came from, where you're at and where you're going. In looking back over all those years, I can't help but remember when we finished our first paper on that October night in 1993. We got home after four in the morning and were back at the printer within hours to start the distribution process. Later that day, the reality of weekly newspaper publishing fully set in: We had to have another one out in a week.





Another important moment was when our company was named a finalist for a local business award in the late '90s. The staff was thrilled for the recognition, and I thought if we could just win the award it would in some way validate the effort we'd put in. We didn't win. I was disappointed, but over the next few days, the truth of that moment came to me. Outside validation would not make us successful; all an award would do is give us a nice pat on the back and a false sense of security. I know for a fact that we won by losing, because it helped us realize what we actually needed to do as a business: find our own success.





We had humble beginnings in 1993, and the early years were a challenge. Today, I'm proud that The Inlander is a vital part of the fabric of the region and the weekly lives of its people. Having grown up here, I know all about our region's sense of acceptance -- the way we embrace certain things as our own and end up making them bigger than any other community would. Events like Bloomsday or Hoopfest or even the recent U.S. Figure Skating Championships, when Spokane stood out as one of the best markets ever to host the event.





The Inlander, in its own way, has become a kind of weekly Hoopfest. Earlier this year, we were notified that 34.7 percent of all adults in our region read The Inlander. The significance of this number is that there are weekly newspapers in every major city in the U.S., and not one was ranked higher than ours. Yes, the Inland Northwest did it again, and The Inlander is the No. 1 best-read weekly newspaper in the nation -- it has been three out of the last five years. During that time, we've grown the number of pages we print each week and expanded our region-wide distribution network. We've also expanded into new publications, like InHealthNW magazine, Annual Manual magazine, the annual Bloomsday Results Booklet and more.





With our talented, dedicated staff, I'm convinced our company will continue to improve on what we've accomplished through our first 15 years. The region is growing, and there's more to write about than ever before. Our job, as I see it, is to continue delivering the best publications that we can, to help our readers enjoy the region they call home. One thing I know is that you won't see our company standing still. We'll soon be launching new Websites for both The Inlander and InHealthNW. And on our 850-plus distributioin racks every week, we'll keep giving you, for free, the best weekly newspaper we can.





Thanks for supporting us -- by reading, by advertising or both. Over 15 incredible years, you have made The Inlander and the Inland Northwest No. 1.





-- JEREMY McGREGOR

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