No News Is Bad News: Bret Narayan on Growing Up With the Riverfront Times

click to enlarge Listen to Alderman Bret Narayan, and his dad. - COURTESY BRET NARAYAN
Listen to Alderman Bret Narayan, and his dad.

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

“Hold on, I just have to grab the local fishwrap,” was a common saying out of my father anytime he passed one of the red magazine stands throughout town that held copies of the Riverfront Times.

I never quite got it as a kid. We already had a paper delivered to our house every day and he read it cover to cover. Anytime I asked why he had to grab this one too, he’d just reply, “This one is different than that one.”

It wasn’t until I got a bit older that I realized why the RFT was so different than the paper that I got at my house daily. Sure, the daily let me know the day-to-day events of our local, state and federal government, included crime reports and had some solid comics — but the RFT let me know where to go and when to go there to really get the most out of my city. Whether it was a solid new restaurant in town opening up that didn’t get coverage in some bigger publications, a summer show at Riverport Amphitheater (It will always be Riverport to me, dammit!), a play at the Fox Theatre, stand-up at a local comedy club, or even just a local band playing at one of our city’s great small venues for the night, the RFT helped shine a light on parts of St. Louis that other publications simply weren’t honing in on.

Of course, where to go and when to be there is only a tiny part of what the RFT really does. It’s the place for both the short zany stories of our town that make you laugh and some of the most serious, hard-hitting, longform journalism in town — stories that can make you sad, or angry or really drive change. When talent like Doyle Murphy or Danny Wicentowski places someone or something in their crosshairs, it shows exactly why you never pick a fight with someone who buys ink by the barrel. The RFT’s longform articles are worth the read; if you don’t check them out, you’re missing out.

With COVID-19 here, now, more than ever, we need both the easy laughs and the quick pick-me-ups offered by funny short stories that we don’t see elsewhere as well as the serious real-world knowledge offered by the longform journalism that is prevalent at the RFT. Moving forward, there are going to be many hard questions to be asked and answered by media and the citizenry. By supporting local media, you can ensure that you’re making decisions with as much information as possible in front of you.

Plus, when all this craziness is over, where am I going to find out where to head for dinner and a show without writers like Daniel Hill and Cheryl Baehr?

Bret Narayan is the alderman of the 24th Ward in the City of St. Louis