Wheeling into the Trouble Years 

BW turns sweet 16

We've been humming some '90s music around the office these days. In just one e-mail exchange with co-workers about 1991 and 1992, my head filled up with sounds of classic U2, Pearl Jam and the fading years of the Grateful Dead.

With this issue, the Boise Weekly enters its 16th year of publishing this here rag, and although publisher Sally Freeman has occasionally wanted to actually drive a car into the building, something has stopped her. And I don't think it's just the shocked face of Amy Atkins in the window that gives her pause.

click to enlarge LEILA RAMELLA

No, it's because at the ripe age of 16, the Boise Weekly has become that thing that every parent dreads and marvels at: a teenager. With a license to drive people crazy.

So I called up BW's father, so to speak, to check up. Andy Hedden-Nicely and his wife Debi started the Boise Weekly with plenty of questions, several doubts, but an awful lot of hope. And now look at it.

"This is the Boise Weekly's tattoo and piercing stage," Andy said, with a chuckle.

Officially, Boise Weekly began production of its first issue on July 16, 1992, with the first issue published Tuesday, July 21, 1992. Newspapers begin with volume one, issue one. At the end of the first year, as they begin marking the second volume, they are, in fact, only one year old.

Andy loves to point out that when he took a vote of the founding staff, it was Debi who voted against starting the paper. But after that initial hesitance, he said, she became the more nurturing parent who knew when to take care of a troubled staff.

"I had worked in newsrooms before. Andy had published a weekly newspaper before," Debi wrote here in 2005. "We both knew what it took. It took a pound of flesh."

Thus was begun a paper that has bedeviled and inspired residents of Idaho's capital city like nothing else.

Now, with a few ownership changes distancing him from BW, Hedden-Nicely sounds every bit like a proud father who is happy to not be responsible for the darned thing any more.

"I don't have a lot of control over the BW now. But as a parent, I'm real proud of it," he said. "I really feel like each successive genertion is in charge of finding its own value and its own place."

Like any teen, he said, the Boise Weekly will "probably try some things that will serve it well, and some things that won't."

Amen to that. We start each publishing cycle thinking that a) we have a great idea and b) it will most likely kill us before we're done with it.

Take beer, for instance. After this issue, we're all on strict martini diets.

Not that these things aren't rewarding. After cataloguing a list of the hazards of working at BW, former arts editor Steve Duda wrote in these pages that, "On the bright side, however, there were the long hours, ridiculous pay and bomb threats."

We're lucky to have some of BW's originals still with us. Jay Vail, BW's first editor, is now a proofreader here, and he fusses over copy and reminds us when we've gone awry. In fact, a certain bar in town has Jay to thank for keeping us from including ad hominem insults in our Coldest Beer write-up. I guess it's an OK bar after all.

Thanks, Jay. That kind of longevity is essential to our success.

But so, too, is a sense of our role in the community.

"People are looking for something authentic," Andy said. "I do think Boise Weekly is something authentic."

I'm reminded of that just now, considering that we've recently heard that the Idaho Statesman is reconsidering its faux-alt-weekly paper, Thrive.

We have made an unintentional habit of aggravating some advertisers, who wonder why we don't always do what they want us to do. But readers, and their hearts, their minds and, I suppose, occasionally, their wallets, still flock here. We cherish their every eyeball.

"I'd say the BW is at that age when it's really going to start flexing its muscles," Andy said. "It's always been its own voice. But my children were individuated at an early age. The BW was also. It became its own thing, its own idea, very quick. I'm very optimistic about the future of the publication."

Thanks, Andy, Debi and everyone else, for getting us rolling. We'll try not to hit anything.

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