Reader Reminiscences

Ground Zero: of course it was born at a bar in 1994


It has been said many times throughout history that some of the greatest ideas are hatched in the darkness of a bar. The Reader was born in a brewpub in Omaha circa 1994. It wasn’t an easy birth. As newborns go, this baby was a bit anemic and lacked the rosy red cheeks of other publications in the continental United States. But within a month or two we started to add color to the cover and back page. Eventually it became a full-color publication. The Reader came into this life as a bi-weekly. It was published every other Wednesday. Some of the defining characteristics of this young publication included an actual “Letters to the Editor” section on the first page. Back then, people still wrote letters, put them in envelopes and mailed them to our office. The last couple of pages of The Reader consisted of a section called “The Meeting Place.” To survive, an alternative publication needed every “alternative” source of revenue it could find. If you were seeking a soul-mate or perhaps a dinner date (keep in mind this was before Face- book, Grinder, Backpage, etc.) you would check out “The Meeting Place.” It was free to place an ad but if you wanted to reply to a printed ad or browse through the voice greetings you could call a 900 number (for only $1.99 a minute). Courtship is much easier nowadays, right? In between these two (now defunct) sections we inserted colorful columns by local heavy-weights: Todd & Tyler, Mike Messerly, Otis & Diver Dan, Guy Rudloff, Gary Java and Michael Braunstein, to name a few. If there was a story that the Omaha World- Herald shied away from…we were there. We had some pretty lofty goals. But we also wanted to entertain! So into the mix we tossed in some great book reviews (Kyle Tonniges), an advice column (“Mondo Can Help”), movie reviews (“Bix Pix The Flix”), restaurant reviews (Geoff Jordan), a very comprehensive ‘Entertainment Guide’…and Mr. Weepy. The ads were even entertaining. Right now I’m looking at one from March of ’94. Tool was coming to the Civic Auditorium with The Flaming Lips opening. Tickets were only $12.50. Then…out of freakin’ nowhere, Al Gore invented the internet! And the publishing world was never the same. Numerous newspapers and magazines either switched to an online format or just totally disappeared. Maybe I’m just old-fashioned, but I still like to actually hold whatever I’m reading. When I finish a book, I thumb through the pages and re-read blurbs and stare at the cover, lost in deep thought. So anyway…this paper was born in a brew pub in 1994. We laid out the pages in a train car attached to the building. One time a grey- hound inexplicably pounced through a door that was slightly ajar and trampled all over the upcoming issue. Someone eventually lured the dog out using a piece of beef jerky. With a deadline looming we frantically patched together the publication as best as we could. The issue went to press with paw prints and teeth marks on virtually every page (but I don’t think anyone really noticed). And wow…check it out now! The Reader is all grown-up. To this day, I still get a few goosebumps whenever I smell fresh newsprint.


Category: Specials

Leave a Reply