No News Is Bad News: Jeannette Cooperman on the Unpredictable Riverfront Times

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Jeannette Cooperman.

This is one in a series of essays from Riverfront Times readers in support of our recently launched Riverfront Times Press Club

Most newspapers, you read already knowing what you will find. Not the RFT. It’s the difference between opening the sweater your grandma buys you every December and opening a surprise bought by a friend who gets your sense of humor, knows you’re smart, and appreciates your delight in the unusual, the quirky, the deeply human.

The RFT surprises us. It does not hold back, mince words, defer, or suck up. And if ever we needed that kind of candor, it is now, when people know only what their friends know and nothing more, because the “other side” feels too far from our “truth” to even engage in discussion.

In the decade I wrote for the paper, not once was I censored or told to take a different tack. Not once were the facts … softened, shall we say, or rearranged to be less confrontational. Even in their heyday, their Woodward & Bernstein glory days, newspapers were never as objective as they claimed to be. They have often protected their own sacred cows, be they publishers’ friends or major advertisers. At the RFT, what I wrote lost us several accounts. My editor did not flinch; nor did the reps who lost commission. We knew what we were about, and it was more than money. (Note the paper’s current continuation, at huge personal cost to those putting it together.)

A friend of mine stands about 180 degrees from me on most topics, and he is quick to characterize the RFT as a liberal rag—meaning it questions established authority and convention and looks out for those who have no other voice. Yet my friend reads the paper religiously. Why? Because it makes no pretense, and he always knows where he is. He values the honesty of a newspaper that is neither courting advertisers’ favor nor second-guessing the political winds. The beauty of this freewheeling alt newsweekly has always been that you don't have to agree with it to cherish it.

You just have to let it surprise you.

— Jeannette Cooperman is an author, journalist, editor and former Riverfront Times staff writer
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