Looking Over My Shoulder

"Funny now how it all goes by so fast/ One day I'm looking over my shoulder at the past." -- Mary Chapin Carpenter, "The Long Way Home" Funny how you can be mulling a column in your head, trying

Dec 19, 2007 at 2:06 pm

"Funny now how it all goes by so fast/ One day I'm looking over my shoulder at the past."

— Mary Chapin Carpenter, "The Long Way Home"

Funny how you can be mulling a column in your head, trying to work out a way into the theme, and you hear a song that says exactly what you're thinking but can't seem to express. That serendipity is what I'll miss most about radio after it becomes extinct.

And so we approach the end of another year that's gone by too fast, and we look over our shoulders to see how far we've come. Or to notice that we've barely budged.

Luckily there are plenty of people eager to help us analyze our year and determine if we've gotten enough out of it. Like the people here at CityBeat, who begin the "review" process with this week's Year in Film and Music issue (film starts here, music starts here).

A&E Editor Jason Gargano and Music Editor Mike Breen gather critics and experts to share knowledge about incredible movies you didn't see, amazing bands you've never heard of, life-changing moments you completely missed and entertainment trends that went right over your head. Oh wait, change "you" to "I" in that sentence — hopefully you were more in touch this year than I was.

The great thing about a section like this is you can use it to go back and catch up on the year.

Sure, you can't bring back the live concerts and the festivals, but thanks to your friendly neighborhood DVD and record stores — and those ubiquitous digital download Web sites — you can still discover movies and music you missed the first time around.

Mike also rounds up the great national press Cincinnati area musicians have been getting lately, from Wussy in Rolling Stone to Over the Rhine in Paste to high-profile mentions for singer/songwriters Kim Taylor and Nathan Holscher. Check out his "year in review" preview in Spill It here.

Next week Mike will offer his picks for the best local CDs and local songs of 2007, and every section in CityBeat will play along — from the best outtakes from editorials and reader letters to the year's key news stories to critics' picks in theater, visual art, dance, restaurants and movies.

I won't be writing a column next week, so this is my final byline in 2007. As always, I appreciate the time you've spent this year with CityBeat in general and with my words specifically.

Thanks to you, CityBeat had the highest readership numbers this year — both in print and online — in our 13-year history. And still, as with all media organizations, we know we have to constantly evolve and improve to keep up with the rapidly changing world of iThis and MyThat.

In my opinion, the best way to change is to stay focused on your mission and readers and find ways to be creative within that framework.

CityBeat promotes critical thinking via intelligent, provocative journalism and opinions. That's our niche in the Cincinnati media world, and I think we accomplished a lot in 2007.

I won't list every cover story we published this year, but some of my favorites were the first-person story on bipolar disorder; the tribute to the last year of The Post; the first-person story on why smokers smoke; the annual Women's Issue; the true story of the Ohio kids known for the '60s hit song "Yummy Yummy Yummy;" the investigative story on Cintas' workplace violations; the pre-election stories on Cincinnati City Council, the Hamilton County jail tax and endorsements; and the Kyoto Accord environmental stories put together by the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies.

Other cover stories spanned the kinds of political and social issues we love to tackle at CityBeat: U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich as the outsider presidential candidate; the collaborative agreement on police/community relations in Cincinnati; environmental justice; Lighthouse Youth Services; opening of the Creation Museum; area soldiers who served in Iraq; legal status of sex offenders; domestic violence; and stories the mainstream media "censored."

On the entertainment side, CityBeat published 88 interviews with local musicians in 2007. Yes, I counted.

That number includes cover stories on the CincyPunk Festival, MusicNOW Festival, 500 Miles to Memphis, Scribble Jam, MidPoint Music Festival and Cincinnati Entertainment Awards. It doesn't count the weekly Spill It column, which is devoted exclusively to local music; the hundreds of Spill It blog posts, many of which focused on local music; or the dozens of CD reviews of local releases. Nor does it count the space devoted to national touring acts.

CityBeat published 71 live theater reviews, 45 visual art reviews and 40 restaurant reviews this year (including this issue). Those numbers don't include our regular theater and art columns, our artist profiles (Articulations), our gallery show capsules (Focal Point), our chef profiles (Look Who's Eating), our architecture column or our book reviews.

And they don't count our annual Best of Cincinnati, Where to Eat Dining Guide, Hot Issue, State of the Arts Issue, Cool Issue and year-end issues, all of which feature a lot of arts and dining coverage.

As you grind through daily and weekly deadlines, relaunch your Web site and keep the long-term planning process afloat, it's easy to lose track of how much you've accomplished along the way. That's one of the benefits of looking over your shoulder at year's end.

It's also easy sometimes to get too focused on the next deadline and lose track of the big picture. I've fought against that temptation by leading a team of CityBeat folks over the past few months in a "refreshment" project to re-energize the paper heading into 2008.

When I next write in this space, on Jan. 2, I'll be surrounded by a redesigned, refocused newspaper. I think you're going to like it.

In the meantime, I'll listen to the rest of that Mary Chapin Carpenter song and dream of good times in the new year.

"Or you could be the one who takes the long way home/ Roll down your window, turn off your phone.

See your life as a gift from the great unknown/ And your task is to receive it.

Tell your kid a story, hold your lover tight/ Make a joyful noise, swim naked at night.

Read a poem a day, call in well sometimes and/ Laugh when they believe it.

CONTACT JOHN FOX: [email protected]