Years in print:
NoisyPaper Debuts Again
By Dawn Grodsky
A new alternative monthly is hoping to be heard loud and clear. NoisyPaper was launched this fall  by two ex-Riverfront Times staffers and one who continues to work there part time. Publisher Carrie Lindsey, Managing Editor Kevin Renick and Contributing Editor Thomas Crone say they’re not trying to compete with the RFT but that St. Louis is big enough to support more than one alternative voice.
“St. Louis has been called a conservative town many times, but there are some unique and vital things happening in the artistic community here. Let’s not be silent about that. Let’s make some noise! Ladies and gentlemen, we invite you to raise your voices. And in turn we hope you’ll read us…loud and clear,” the trio wrote in NoisyPaper’s inaugural issue in September.
Since then, they’ve published two issues and are working on a combined December/January one. They’ve covered topics such as the crumbling old wall along Forest Park Parkway, a music camp for kids at Riverport Ampitheatre and the mask exhibit at the St. Louis Art Museum. The paper is heavy on news about local and visiting bands, music, books and arts reviews, and calendar coverage. Crone revived his old RFT column, “Say Anything,” and the editors have collectively lamented the loss of the Parkmoor, the Kirkwood Cinema and the pending demolition of the South Side National Bank.
They say their paper won’t get into the politics that the RFT does with the possible exception of preservation issues. They define NoisyPaper as an arts, music and culture medium.
NoisyPaper is a typical shoestring publication with the principals and other contributors working for the sheer joy of it (Read “No money”).
“We’re working on pretty much stamina right now,” Lindsey said. “Hopefully it will be at least a year before we…” “…have our nervous breakdowns,” Renick finished for her.
But both say they have a passion for grass-roots publishing. Renick wants to be in control of the creative content. “It’s nice to find stories and not have to contact the top editors about it. It’s a real kick for me,” he said.
Lindsey said as an artist, she loves the creative freedom of having her own publication.
NoisyPaper is, in fact, not brand new. Lindsey has resurrected it. The former art director for St. Louis Magazine, also owned by the RFT, started NoisyPaper back in the early ‘80s. It began as a Xeroxed, new-wave Zine and eventually developed into a tabloid that lasted just over a year. Lindsey started another paper right after that called Voc’l, which lasted four issues. She worked for a lot of little papers that came and went before going to work full-time for Ray Hartmann, founder of the RFT, in 1990.
Renick, who still works as a part-time RFT copy editor and who contributed to the early edition of NoisyPaper in 1981, said, “At that time, there was a good climate for alternative papers. There were lots of them.”
Lindsey left St. Louis Magazine late last year, shortly after Hartmann announced its sale to New Times in November. She had worked there for eight years, doing ad design work and production for the RFT and then moving over to the magazine when Hartmann bought it. “Ray Hartmann didn’t really offer me a position at St. Louis Magazine,” Lindsey said, noting she didn’t want to go back to designing the black and white “sleaze ads” for the newspaper when she was used to the high-gloss, color magazine. “It happened to a lot of people there. They lost their job responsibilities.”
Crone was fired from the RFT on July 2 and said his termination was not something he expected.
It was his firing that, in a way, inspired Lindsey and Renick to relaunch NoisyPaper.
Lindsey explained how she made the decision last summer. “Over the course of several months of seeing the RFT dropping the ball, if you will, on local coverage, and then firing Thomas Crone; He has such a great column. It just falls into his lap and he really knows what’s going on around town. He’d rated parish picnics. I mean, how cool is that? I thought ‘Gosh we need him. We need to start something.’ We’re lucky he agreed to continue his column (for us).”
Renick added, “It became clear that with the changes at the RFT, there would be room for other publications. There are a lot of stories out there and we want to be a forum for other people and points of view…In St. Louis there are a lot of creative people into the arts. We don’t have to compete with RFT. We can carve out our own niche.”
Lindsey said she hopes NoisyPaper becomes a showcase for artists’ work. But most of all, they want to be unpredictable.
“We want to be kind of surprising and keep you uncertain about what we’re going to do. We’re not following the straight and narrow all the time,” Renick said.
They print 6,000 to 10,000 issues each month and distribute it in major metro areas such as the University City Loop, South Grand and Washington Avenue. The paper can also be picked up at various music outlets, including Streetside Records and Vintage Vinyl, bookstores and restaurants. Lindsey, Renick and Crone do the delivery themselves. “That’s why we call it grass roots,” Renick said.
But Lindsey and Renick hope the publication will support them someday.
“It would be great to get to the point where we could make an honest living from it or at least pay our bills. I don’t see a huge amount of money in it. I do see a market in which we can eke out a living,” Lindsey said.
Renick noted that it’s a challenge for any alternative paper to get going without major financial backing.
Crone, whose main job is writing for citysearch.com – an online news service and events calendar operated by TicketMaster – said he has no grand notions about making a lot of money from the effort but wanted to help get it off the ground.
For that he writes essentially the same out-and-about column he wrote for RFT and helps with the editing in addition to distribution. He said Lindsey approached him shortly after his firing from the RFT and that things happened pretty quickly after that.
They decided September would be a good time to launch, and say that feedback has been mostly positive, with the only negative being people who want more coverage. But right now they’re locked into 12 pages.
Crone said that he too would like the paper to have more variety of topics and to be better researched at times. “Now it’s essay-istic and very reviewer-oriented. To get a little more respect, it needs to have more reporting in it. Maybe that’s a role for me, maybe someone else.
“To date, I find it a little bit soft with not a lot of edgy material. But I think that will change with time,” he said.
He said the most well-received piece is a column by Chris King, who writes about his travels around the country with veteran musicians.
And Crone, who works 10 to 12 hours a month at NoisyPaper, added he wished he had more time to spend on the publication. “NoisyPaper I do in some weird way as a hobby. It’s an outlet but it’s not an immediate job opportunity, as I see it. Were it to take off, cool, but a lot will be driven by how much advertising comes in. The key person in this project is someone who can sell.”
Right now, Lindsey is doing most of that, along with the ad design. She’s doing all the work in a spare room of her Webster Groves home, and a major computer crash during the production of issue No. 1 nearly ended NoisyPaper before it even began.
So where will it go from here? Possibly in partnership with another of St. Louis’ alternatives, suggested Crone.
“Ideally, I think it would be great for this publication to have a merger of some sort happen and make a legitimate run at that level, as opposed to making it on its own,” he said.
Lindsey and Renick noted they could work in cooperation with other alternatives.
“We could consolidate with Intermission and Core or just help each other out,” Lindsey said, adding they’re also thinking about going non-profit.
Renick added, “We are respectful of what other publications do and we don’t want to take away from what they do. Intermission focuses on the theater and there is plenty of material and plenty of stories we can do to establish our own identity…It’s all about communication.”
(Originally published in the St. Louis Journalism Review 12/1999).