The year was 1985, a time when a Macintosh was just an apple, byte was still a verb and a hard drive meant a long trip upstate.
That same year, a new weekly community newspaper, West Side Spirit, was launched to provide West Siders with the news of their neighborhoods.
In addition to being the only newspaper in town to comprehensively cover the news of the West Side, we also helped provide a forum for interesting writers and new voices. In the late 1980s, a high school English teacher named Frank McCourt wrote a regular column in the Spirit. A recent Vassar College grad named Tom Beller—now an acclaimed author—wrote quirky features for the paper from 1986 to 1987. We also provided a platform for the witty columns of a bright new voice on the West Side: Tama Janowitz.
We took some well-known names and allowed them to write about their passions: “Mayflower Madam” Sydney Biddle Barrows offered sex advice to eager readers and former Mayor Ed Koch began providing his take on movies.
Today, we still aim to tell compelling tales of West Side life, covering education, politics, real estate, business, cultural happenings and just about anything that touches the life of an Upper West Sider.
And this week, with our 25th anniversary issue, we are rededicating ourselves especially to telling West Side stories. As you can see inside today’s issue, we’ve told our share. Some of our former editors and reporters share their favorite tales of the last 25 years. We’re impressed with those editors and writers themselves, as many now have bylines appearing in the New York Times, New York Post, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, Philadelphia Inquirer and New York Law Journal.
But we’re just as impressed with their recollections. Certainly West Side Spirit has won journalism awards and earned a reputation for being a feisty, hard-hitting community weekly with groundbreaking investigative reporting. We helped free an innocent man from jail (“The Jane Street Murder Case”) and brought to national attention the plight of the homeless mentally ill (“The Wild Man of West 96th Street”).
In 1991, in fact, New York magazine dubbed West Side Spirit “the tiny but tough tabloid.”
We liked that nickname. We still do.
As always, we’ll continue to be the small-town newspaper in the big metropolis. Where you can see your neighbor’s name in a story about community opposition to a new building. Where you can find tips on where to shop or dine in your neighborhood.
We’ll continue to cover the stories that are too small for the mass media, because our motto continues to be “all important news is local.” Let the dailies and television news focus on foreign wars and entanglements and natural disasters. We are content to be the must-read on the West Side for a quarter-century now.
To our readers, loyal advertisers and to the entire staff—past and present—who have supported us these last 25 years, thank you. If we haven’t covered your story or made it to your block yet, rest assured we’ll be there soon.
The best is yet to come.
Publisher, West Side Spirit