Annie Zaleski bids St. Louis and the RFT a fond farewell

There's no easy way to say this, so I'll just be blunt: Tuesday, April 5, was my last day at the RFT as its music editor. In mid-April, I'm moving back to my hometown of Cleveland, Ohio, so I can be closer to my family and my boyfriend, and so I can take a job as the managing editor of Alternative Press magazine.

After I announced my departure, a friend noted that she was impressed by how I navigated this job (and the city) as an outsider. And it's true: St. Louis can be a tough town to crack, especially if you didn't grow up here. However, after some initial suspicion and wariness, the music community here welcomed me warmly during my nearly six-year tenure at the RFT. I'm so appreciative for the (by and large) friendly nature of the city's musicians, club owners, promoters, publicists, writers and bartenders. I know it's a cliché, but the people I've met and befriended through this job are what I'll miss the most about St. Louis.

I'm also grateful for everyone's patience and willingness to change, because my job has evolved dramatically since I started in 2005. Back then, my only job was to edit (and write for) the print section of the paper, and to pen a weekly column. Now, I'm tasked with editing the print section and with editing/writing for the RFT's music blog, A to Z (www.rftmusic .com). Juggling the print and digital editions hasn't always been easy, but the community that exists around the music blog has brought me great joy and is also something I'm going to miss.

In the end, I'm proud of the work I've done at the RFT, and I'm also proud of the music community here. St. Louis is an underdog city through and through, but instead of seeing that as an obstacle, people are embracing that reputation and building camaraderie and community from the ground up. From venues to record stores to music festivals and beyond, the city is as vibrant and exciting as it's ever been.

I'm pleased to announce that the person in charge of chronicling this excitement is Kiernan Maletsky (kiernan.maletsky @riverfronttimes.com), who moved here from Denver. Please make him feel welcome, and don't hesitate to help him get acclimated to the Gateway City and its weird quirks. In the spirit of torch-passing — and because my predecessor did this too — I'm going to leave Kiernan with some things I've learned in my years in St. Louis.

Talk to everyone.
Nearly every time I went out and had a conversation with someone — whether I was at a record store, a coffee shop, the grocery store or the gym — I found out about something cool, whether it was a news tip or a music tip. (This also tends to happen every time I checked in on Twitter or wasted time on Facebook.) The music community is embedded in nearly every other industry in town — and sometimes pops up where you least expect it. Having a vast network of sources is the secret to running a kickass blog.

Ask people what they're up to.
St. Louisans can be reticent to reveal what cool projects or things they might be up to, often because they're afraid of coming across as arrogant. Other times, people don't realize that something they're doing is actually newsworthy. So in the spirit of tip No. 1, ask everybody what's new. Often, what they say might surprise you.

Focus on the positive. (Or when in doubt, keep things neutral.)
There are no shortage of cynical, grumbly people in St. Louis. And sometimes, getting sucked into that vortex of negativity is unavoidable. But there are many more creative, enthusiastic people in town who are excited about their art or music. And residents are passionate about the things that make the community hum with activity. After all, St. Louisans have pride in their city and are fiercely protective of it. Writing about the neat happenings in town will ultimately bring you more joy than complaining about its shortcomings.

Don't try to please everybody.
This is probably the hardest lesson I had to learn. I'm a sensitive person, and the Internet trolls and criticism — whether anonymous or otherwise — affected me deeply, especially when they attacked things that were out of my control. This was often paralyzing; I didn't want to offend people or open myself up to more vitriol. My solution was to develop a thicker skin — and to stop reading the comment sections of my blogposts.

Carve out non-job time.
Until you leave this job — and well, let's be honest, even after — in St. Louis you'll be known as RFT music editor Kiernan Maletsky. Your identity will be intrinsically attached to the paper, for better and for worse. It's exhilarating and intoxicating, for sure — in a sense, you are a public figure and a music-community celebrity. The downside of that? You'll never seem to be able to escape work or your job. For your self-preservation, try to find something where you can just be yourself and decompress from the joyful insanity that is this job.

 
 
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