Endangered species

by Brian Clarey

What do you say… what do you do when it all comes to an end?

Last week, when the Rhinoceros Times announced its last issue, it was the end of something: the end of a homegrown business, begun more than 20 years ago in the smoky confines of the Rhino Club; the end of a weekly’  newspaper that became — for better or for worse — part of the fabric of the city; the end of the Sound of the Beep and the Rumors and that embodiment of the Electra Complex known as Scott’s Night Out.

It would be disingenuous of me not to mention that the death of the Rhino also eliminated one of this newspaper’s main competitors. Mostly we went up against each other for Greensboro advertising dollars — the Rhino never ventured into the other cities of the Triad. We would occasionally cross paths on the editorial side, but we always took pains to differentiate our content from theirs. We had to, because the Rhino came first. From the day we began publishing, it was the standard against which we were measured, causing more than a bit of cognitive dissonance in the community when our reporting didn’t jibe with the Rhino’s version of events.

But the Rhino kept us honest, and just the fact of its existence made us over here at YES! Weekly into better journalists.

In all intense competitions — and the rivalry between our two papers was, at times, fairly heated — there is an inevitable measure of respect. Even while there were some things about the Rhino that I could not understand, that flew in the face of everything I had ever been taught about journalism, there were many facets of the paper I admired: its discipline, its impact on the community, its flush realestate section.

There’s more. But I don’t really have time to wax nostalgic about the Rhino and its place in the city’s media history — with the vacuum created by the paper’s passing, it’s go time around here. Time to make some moves.

We’ve been tweaking some of the paper’s sections over the last couple of weeks. But the biggest changes come in this issue.

We’ll be running the Sunday New York Times crossword puzzle from here on out — it’s on page 50 this week. If you are a fan of crossword puzzles — as I am — then you already know that the Sunday Times puzzle is the Cadillac of interactive newspaper content. It’s something I’ve coveted for years, and it’s an honor to feature it in these pages.

We also made some changes to the Voices section. We will no longer be running Chuck Norris’ weekly column. Frankly, he’s neither an exceptional thinker nor a practiced logician, and I’m coming to believe that syndicated content like this has no place in a local newspaper. Plus, I’m sick of hearing about his book, Black Belt Patriotism.

We’ve taken on Sam Hieb, whose career in journalism has taken him all across the Triad. He currently maintains the Piedmont Publius blog of the John Locke Foundation, but this column, called “ Right Hook,” is his own. Sam will write about local events and issues through the lens of conservative politics — without enumerating talking points or relentlessly plugging his side projects. His voice joins the forum this week on page 16.

For the first time in a decade, Hieb’s byline will appear in the same publication as our other new columnist, Scott Yost. The two worked together at the now defunct Triad Business News, which shut down 10 years ago. Yost, of course, went on to the Rhino Times, where he coined the term “county editor” and penned a weekly 3,000-word column with the alluring name of “Yost Column.”

Seriously, though, Yost and I have been friends for years. I’ve always thought he was smart and talented. His columns always made me laugh, and often made me think about something — like, say, penguins — in a completely new way.

Our deal trims Yost’s weekly output to a more standard column length and gives it something it never had before: a name. Yost in the Machine debuts this week on page 42.

If these changes seem like a transparent attempt to woo former Rhino readers… well, you’re right. That’s what we’re doing.

We already know that Rhino readers appreciate hard-hitting commentary and indepth investigative reporting, so it’s only natural they’d eventually gravitate here. Why not grease the skids a little? And it’s not like I need an excuse to run top-shelf writers on these pages. This week YES! Weekly got an upgrade.

To the Rhino readers picking up the paper for the first time: Welcome to the fold. We’re glad you’re here. And we share in your sorrow at the demise of the Rhino, an indispensable resource, a worthy adversary, a fascinating chapter in the history of the city.