Good night, sweet Hooligan

The Hooligan arts reporter shares his thoughts for the final issue

Posted: Thursday, December 18, 2008

Change can be a good thing if it's kept in perspective.

Reminiscent of James Dean and Tupac, Hooligan lived a short and vibrant life. The experiment of providing a publication for the ever-shrinking youthful population of Juneau, which began June 15, 2006, has come to an end.

With this being the final edition of an arts and entertainment tabloid section of the Juneau Empire, it seems fitting to add a little context to help put this change in perspective.

The Hooligan spawned from the idea of creating something the 18- to 35-year-old demographic could feel ownership of in a community where it's not only downright difficult to get a piece of the pie but it seems increasingly challenging just to taste it. It's been an uphill battle since first hitting the stands with a Spotlight story by Korry Keeker highlighting the nefarious nightlife on the streets of downtown after bar close.

Many embraced the idea of having something new and different to peruse, while others had no qualms about vocalizing their displeasure with the idea of presenting certain issues in the community through an irreverent or eccentric filter.

Through roughly 10 years in the journalism game, weathering one of the most troubling times in the profession's storied history, I have developed a working theory that regardless of what you do, 25 percent of the people are automatically going to dislike you, 25 percent will automatically appreciate you, and it's the 50 percent in the middle that you have to earn. It's difficult to say what percentage of the community has appreciated having a weekly entertainment section in a city that hovers around 30,000, but I'd like to think it's at least around half.

The writing of the Hooligan's demise has been on the wall for a while now. When it began there were basically five full-time employees that collaborated on creating it each week. Due to the state of the industry and outside influences that I don't fully understand, several of those positions have simply ceased to exist and we're told the resources are too slim at 3100 Channel Drive and the economic opportunities too grim to continue having a weekly arts tabloid.

Several months back the number of pages were reduced, freelance budgets were slashed and positions were eliminated. Several of us tried our best to keep it limping along, but the time has come to lay the Hooligan to rest peacefully.

That being said, the Hooligan has been a blast for many of us that have poured our blood, sweat and tears into creating this publication on a weekly basis. I'm grateful to have worked with so many talented photographers, page designers, artists, copy editors, columnists, reporters and freelancers the past couple of years.

The Hooligan had its own life in that it experienced many highs and lows, wins and losses, and a myriad of complex emotions and relationships with its readers in its brief existence. It really has been a unique opportunity to be a part of the Hooligan - to be able to take the seed of an idea, plant it, nurture it, and watch it grow into something tangible.

I'm not sure how the community will feel about this loss. I kind of feel like the Hooligan represents the struggles this community is presently enduring and the apparent difficulty it has of bridging the gap between the old and the young in the capital of Alaska. I also feel like the arts scene in Juneau is representative, or an ironic indicator, of the "brain drain" issue Juneau hasn't been able to adequately address over the last decade. From the many "young people" I have talked with that have decided to leave Juneau, one of the top three of four reasons I am given is because "there is nothing to do."

While I disagree with that notion, what I feel many of them tried to articulate is that there are very few high-profile musical or entertainment acts that "young people" want to go see, so many decide to move to a place where they can see a top-40 artist perform without having to plan an entire vacation around it. It's expensive to bring big-name acts to town, I know, but is it too expensive to invest in the entertainment infrastructure for the youth of this community?

If it were up to me I'd like to see the city set aside about $100,000 a year from the sales tax coffers to host two big concerts. Sell the tickets at a reasonable cost on a first-come. first-served basis and put the proceeds back into the program. If it makes money, good; if not, at least the 20-somethings will feel like they are appreciated in this community. If the city is willing to spend $150,000 for a consultant to study the bus routes, then why can't it pay $50,000 to bring Ben Harper, Jay Z, O.A.R., Common or somebody like that for a kickass concert in the capital? I know, I digress, and it sounds a bit socialistic, but it's just an idea.

In these troubled economic times it's difficult to say what the future of Juneau will be like and how the entertainment scene will weather the storm. Like I said, change can be a good thing if you keep it in perspective. Maybe the death of the Hooligan will create a void that will result in a voracious appetite for arts coverage in the community and a phoenix will rise from the ashes. Maybe not.

But to those who have appreciated the Hooligan, to those that have contributed, and even to those that have loathed it for what it has been, we thank you from the bottom of our hearts for allowing us to have a voice the last couple of years. If you get bored some time, come check us out online and see if we're there.

Alas, good night sweet Hooligan.

• Reporter Eric Morrison can be reached at 523-2269 or eric.morrison@juneauempire.com.



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