By Ron Tierney
In the beginning, it was difficult to imagine that a publication like NUVO would succeed. The conservative Pulliam family newspapers, The Indianapolis Star
and The Indianapolis News
, dominated city media. By combining the print and advertising operations of their morning and afternoon newspapers, they were able to kill off their only serious competition, the more liberal Indianapolis Times
, in 1965.
Over the years there were sporadic attempts to launch some sort of alternative newspaper, weeklies and monthlies, to address this lack of balance. One of the better publications was an attempt to reintroduce the Indianapolis Times
name, though with counter-culture content. It was well put together. So was Taboo
, a culture rich and eccentric monthly far ahead of its time. Both of them shared the notion that there were great stories not being covered and other points of view left unexamined in the state's capital and largest city. Unfortunately, none of these rebel publications succeeded for long.
Even with the rocky history of its predecessors, there were a few folks who were convinced the city needed and would support a new voice. Three of us, Larry Rainey, Kevin McKinney and I, got together and discussed the idea for EXTRA
. We would create an edgy alternative weekly somewhat in the style of New YorkVillage Voice
. We would go after entrenched interests if need be, support the character of the city's neighborhoods, all the while giving the arts community, especially cutting edge art, music and theater, a boost.
The idea was to provide a real alternative to the staid, conservative media that dominated the city for decades. We wanted to give a city that was either opposed or indifferent to change an energy infusion.
With the generous support of a small cadre of investors, most of whom shared the vision, we went to work, found writers, photographers and a staff large enough to produce a weekly. We also found a young, energetic graphic arts firm, Dean Johnson Design, to create the prototype called the EXTRA
. It was a handsome design and we were ready to use the new logo for news boxes, letterhead and advertising material.
The new and exciting Indianapolis Extra
was taking shape.
Well, we either talked too much or the walls had ears. Out of nowhere, it seemed, The Indianapolis News
introduced a new section of their newspaper. And they made such a big deal out of their new section, radio and TV promotions as well as in their own publications, you would have thought they discovered a cure for death. The name of that new section? It was everywhere and boldly printed at the top of the section's first page
Bam! But that was just the first punch. As we pressed forward we discovered we weren't the only people planning to come out with a new city publication. Not only were we in the gun sights of a multi-million dollar media empire, we were competing with others like ourselves, dreamers starting from scratch, trying to make a difference.
In retrospect, I think the Pulliam strategy backfired. EXTRA, after all, is an old newspaper term, not a new one. We were forced to innovate and we went the opposite way, coming up with a more spirited New Voice or NUVO.
The highly creative folks at Dean-Johnson went back to work and so did we.
NUVO was born.
I remember, as the editor 20 years ago, I appeared on one of the local network news shows along with the editors of the other new publications jockeying for a spot in the city's media marketplace. Even though it was quite likely, given the situation, that probably only one of our dreams had a chance to survive, the discourse was full of respect and mutual encouragement. When the interviewer mentioned that history showed none of us would succeed, I responded to the challenge by predicting that NUVO would be around long after The Indianapolis News
had gone. Though I'm pretty sure changing reading habits caused the sad demise of afternoon papers everywhere, my pompous prediction nonetheless proved true. The Indianapolis News
was buried in 1999.
I cherish the idea that I was part of the team that launched NUVO and that I was able to edit its earliest issues. The early going was rough. But there is no mistake about where the congratulations go. They go to the dedicated and creative staff and leadership for keeping that new voice alive and relevant for two decades.
Long live NUVO.