Saturday, May 18, 2024

Durham’s most interesting journalist

Bob Geary, one of North Carolina’s best journalists, is ending his weekly column at Durham’s Indy Week, previously called Independent Weekly. His last one is worth reading. As usual, Bob shows he gives a darn about his state and community and explains key issues, backed by years of reporting — not just pontificating. Whether you agree with his conclusions or not, Bob has been well ahead of the mainstream on gay rights, mass transit and many other issues.

Alternative weeklies can play key economic roles in communities, defying their reputations as liberal rags. The best example is the Austin Chronicle, which helped turn Texas’ staid capital city into the fastest-growing metro area in the U.S. The Chronicle seized upon Austin’s creative scene — Willie Nelson, Stevie Ray Vaughan, etc. — and the weekly’s Lewis Black, Roland Swenson and Nick Barbaro created the South by Southwest festival in 1987. It has emerged as an international event for music, film and technology industries, attracting more than 50,000 hipsters annually. It’s no coincidence that Apple, Facebook, Google and other tech titans are collectively investing billions in Austin.

Independent Weekly and the Hopscotch Music Festival — started by a former employee — haven’t made as big of a mark in the Triangle. But paper remains a vital voice and the festival is popular. In a 1989 story, Business North Carolina recounted the paper’s start in 1983, when founders Steve Schewel and Katherine Fulton and nine other staffers were initially paid $200 a week. “Back then it had nothing to do with business,” Schewel told writer Bill Morris. “The paper was strictly politics and journalism.”

(Schewel sold the paper in 2012 to a company that owns alternative weeklies in Portland, Ore., and Santa Fe, N.M.)

The building and renovations under way in downtown Durham reflect its growing reputation as a center for creative people with an eye on the future. People like Bob Geary.

Click here to read Bob’s column.

David Mildenberg
David Mildenberg
David Mildenberg is editor of Business North Carolina. Reach him at

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