An Editor’s Farewell

An Editor’s Farewell
Nick BrothersThe Free Weekly Managing Editor

Nick Brothers
The Free Weekly Managing Editor

My dear readers, this issue of The Free Weekly will be my last as editor. Two weeks ago, I accepted a new job as managing editor of a weekly community newspaper in Austin, Texas, and I’m beginning that role in June.

As I write this, I’m flushed with melancholy thinking about my time here. I grew up in Rogers, and I graduated from the University of Arkansas. This was my first job after college, and I’ve been doing this for three years. I’ve formed great memories and friendships here that I’ll carry with me for the rest of my days. Other than moving around as a kid, this will be my first big move out of state.

While I’m sad to leave Arkansas, I’m also really excited for the future and all the opportunities that await in Austin. It’s no secret I’m a huge music nerd (well, just look at the cover story) and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t crazy excited for the world of live music and arts events in Austin. I first fell in love with the city after visiting friends for South by Southwest in 2015, and I knew then it was going to be the next city I was going to live in. Fortunately, I was able to find a promising new job there this spring.

However, my first love has always been Fayetteville. It’s a fantastic place to live. I often refer to it as The Shire — as in where the hobbits lived in The Lord of the Rings — to first timers for its lovely rolling hills, warm townsfolk and very few serious negatives to describe. It’s urban enough to satisfy a city slicker, and yet, central to a world of outdoorsy adventure. Life is pretty easy going here. It really is a best kept secret.

During my tenure as editor of The Free Weekly, it has felt like it was my job to seek out the stories, quirks and interesting people of this community and write about them. Whenever I would work with a story involving a community event, organizers would thank me for choosing to write about them and I would always respond, “I’m just doing my job.” Because that’s what I got to do for three years. It’s been a cool job.

It’s been my vision for the paper to be a community hub. A paper you could pick up that featured local voices talking about their community or the world from their local perspective, stories about people in the community doing great things, info on all the latest goings on, and an outlet for alternative political views in an otherwise deeply red state. I started the Freekly Fiction series to offer a platform for our community’s fiction writers and poets. I always tried to cover our region’s biggest and best events in a personable, experiential way. I also enjoyed the freedom of writing casually!

Some of my favorite, and award-winning stories were about niche things here. When the community’s beloved activist Jacob George died in 2014, I spent a few days calling people who knew him best, listened to their stories and I attended his wake. During the ongoing Syrian crisis, I spoke with a mother who fled violence and persecution and had to leave behind everything she knew for a new life in Fayetteville. Just 15 miles south of here exists the Little Ole Opry, where I had one of the most charming slice-of-life experiences at their weekly country music show.

I’m also grateful I had an official platform where I could air my opinions, where I could call out our state politicians for their clearly reactionary and harmful decisions to cut funding to rural hospitals, block refugees or attempt to outlaw LGBTQ protections.

I think the people of Fayetteville and Northwest Arkansas are good people. By and large, the people are kind, caring people with good intentions. There are a staggering amount of nonprofits in the area devoted to noble causes, from pairing shelter dogs with at-risk veterans to urban farms seeking to end community food insecurity. There’s a lot of people here who aren’t afraid to stand up for what they believe in.

There are many creative, weird and beautiful people who aren’t afraid to try something strange and different for the sake of trying it. I’ve seen some amazing productions here where I was well-aware I would never experience anything similar to it again. It may be a small group of movers and shakers interested in putting on unique experiences, but there’s also a robust enough community that comes out and supports these events time and again. For an area without a major metropolitan area — we’re considered a “micropolis” area, actually — the amount of quirky, awesome and high quality things to see, eat and experience is impressive.

I also loved living in a city that put in a consistent effort to be on the right side of history. You can’t get a better mascot for a city than Mayor Lioneld Jordan. The man is pure, passionate sunshine and he adores this city and its people to his core.

It’s been a sincere pleasure, honor and a privilege being your editor at The Free Weekly. I will miss all of you dearly. The Free Weekly will continue on, but it’s time I moved on.

As always — and for the last time — thanks for reading.

Categories: Commentary