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May 26, 2010

An afterthought

It may seem like the newspaper you’re reading has always been here. But it hasn’t.

Nostalgia can be boring, so I’ll try to refrain. But after spending several hours revisiting back issues of this publication, it was interesting to note that LEO actually started out as a pretty grown-up product — the founding editors were all seasoned and had done other things in media and politics — and has “devolved” from there.

LEO came out every other week in the early days, and from the start it addressed and engaged readers directly. A conversation. A whimsical sensibility and affection for non-sequiturs informed the cover art and headlines. The rag ragged on whomever seemed to warrant it at the time — some are still around and many aren’t.

The focus jumped around between national, state and local affairs, and touched on many themes that are extant today. To look at it then is to relive contemporary history: Bush-Quayle, Clinton-Gore, Ken Starr and Monica, O.J., Newt, Rush, guns and religion, race and sexuality, bridges. Some names that took up space then will figure into history, but many seem like passing footnotes — Paul Bather, Frank Simon, Harvey Sloane, Sheriff Jim Greene.

Some of LEO’s early themes were extremely right-headed — a focus on media and big business, and the penchant for providing perspectives the powers-that-be would rather you ignore. LEO took pains to own up to its own biases. There was a clear sense of social justice and of the importance of opening the pages to many voices.

Those themes persist. That is a good thing.

So, happy birthday, LEO. John’s baby is all grown up. (By the way, the makings of a congressman were evident, if not obvious, in his early writing.)

Here’s to the founding editors and the countless “little” people who contributed to the paper early on, whose names are too numerous to list.

Today’s LEO stands on their shoulders. And today’s LEO — LEO Weekly — is better than it’s ever been. With young, hungry and talented writers, editors and artists, it more than lives up to the challenge of those early ideals, in the here and now.

So, cheers to all. Take a bow.

Cary Stemle served as managing editor of LEO Weekly from 1998 to 2000, and then as editor until 2008.