by Brian Clarey

A new year, the best one yet

Thirteen is my lucky number. Not because I’m a member of a Hispanic gang — I’m not — but because I was born on the 13th day of April, which is the fourth month, doubly fortuitous because four is the sum of the digits in my lucky number.

So naturally, I’ve been waiting for the year 2013 for a long time. My whole life, actually.

Already it’s shaping up to be a good one. Some time in January or February, my big sister is moving to town. After almost two decades of living in different cities, we’ll be in the same zip code. I look forward to showing her what Greensboro is like and having her participate in the family life my wife and I have created here.

The kids are coming along nicely. They’re all happy with their school situations and their grades are at least as good as mine were when I was young. My oldest surpassed his mother in height over the last couple months; at some point this year he will have his first shave — the year during which, coincidentally, he will turn 13.

We will be one year closer to paying off the house and the cars, one more year of chipping away at my student loan in the books, one more year of marriage, which even through the challenges and tribulations is still the best decision I ever made.

I’ll be putting in another year at YES! Weekly in 2013 as well, making it the longest — by far — I’ve ever held a job.

We started this paper eight years ago, a handful of castoffs with more energy than experience, more enthusiasm than discipline, more big ideas than small differences. We knew just enough to think we could pull it off, and not so much that we knew what we were getting into.

Of that original crew, just three survive: Publisher Charles Womack, News Editor Jordan Green and me, and we have as much passion for the enterprise as we ever did.

And while my life these days is about looking forward, it wouldn’t be inappropriate to take a moment and look back on what we’ve done.

Our first issue, which came out Jan. 4, 2005, weighed in at just 40 pages, with a design that looked slapped together because it more or less was, wire copy for film and “Hollywood news,” a slim news hole and arts coverage that looks anemic in hindsight.

Over the years we’ve added writers, developed sections, honed our focus and seasoned our collective voice. Our role becomes more defined every year, the need for the brand of journalism we practice more pronounced.

I remember all too well back in the beginning, when I couldn’t sleep at night knowing I had so much to do. I’d sometimes hit the office before 6 a.m. and often wouldn’t head for home until past midnight. The enormity of it all weighed on me like an anvil, especially if I thought too far ahead.

I’ve since learned to take things one issue at a time lest I start to hyperventilate. But now, with a few years under my belt, I can see the big picture just a bit more clearly. So when I say that this year will be the best in the newspaper’s history, know that it comes from an informed perspective.

We’re starting the year off in just a couple weeks with our readers’ poll, the Best of the Triad, one of the most popular features of the year. We’ve improved the ballots with more categories and departments, and we’ll run the voting a few weeks longer to ensure that all our readers get to weigh in. It will be the biggest and the best year yet for what has become the Triad’s definitive community poll.

We have plans for more investigative journalism this year from our award-winning news department. A lot of newspapers are abdicating this role due to budget and space constraints, but investigating the people’s business is in our DNA. Green already has a few lines in the water, and staff writer Eric Ginsburg, coming into his second full year on the job, has salted away a few items that I believe will genuinely shock our readers.

Plus we’ve got two city council elections, economic development plans out the wazoo and a new state government that seems to be bent on making sweeping changes to our way of life.

We plan to increase page count and our web presence, further develop our mobile apps (available for iTunes and Android) and expand further our network that reaches across the cities of the Triad and beyond.

As for me, the goals remain the same. I want to do more reporting, write more meaningful stories, uncover pockets of culture that most people don’t know about, but that help make our region what it is.

It won’t be easy, but it will be fun. And after eight years at the helm of this editorial department, I realize that if I’m having fun, then our readers probably are as well.