Editor's NotesNews & Opinion

Editor’s Note: Queen City Nerve Is a Matter of Passion

Still here

Ryan Pitkin wearing a Queen City Nerve shirt standing in front of a mural
Ryan Pitkin, co-founder and editor-in-chief at Queen City Nerve. (Photo by Jayme Johnson)

In an Editor’s Note that we published in the second issue of Queen City Nerve, which published on Dec. 19, 2018, I wrote about the experience of putting out our first one two weeks previously.

“I’ve never experienced a day quite like Dec. 5, which was our first print day two weeks ago. It seemed like everything that could have gone wrong did. New computers bought just weeks previously began to crash under the strain of everything that’s needed to put a paper out. Indentations mysteriously disappeared from each page, leaving square blocks of text. Entire rounds of copy edits apparently never got saved, leading to as cringeworthy a paper as I’ve ever been involved with in terms of typos and the like.

“Despite all that, we got a paper out that I was proud of — albeit six hours past our print deadline,” I wrote.

I titled that Editor’s Note “What a Difference a Year Makes,” and now as we approach four years since that time, I’m blown away by how quickly the 100th issue is upon us. What the hell just happened?

All that stress that came with Dec. 5, 2018 is still a photographic memory to me, as if it happened just a week or two ago, and all the production and print days that have come since — including the one that I’m in the middle of as I type this — all sort of meld into one.

That’s why I’m grateful for the process I’ve just been through with my team in putting together this 100th Issue, the largest non-Best in the Nest issue we’ve put out yet.

To put this together, we’ve gone through our entire cache of articles and revisited the subjects of some of our favorite stories — favorites because they were the most impactful, favorites because they were the most important, or favorites because they were just some cool damn people doing cool damn things.

I was thankful for the chance to reconnect with Bernard Singleton, about whom I’ve now written three articles.

Visiting his Nebedaye Farms site today, it’s a wonder to think of the humble site where he launched Bennu Gardens in the parking lot of the abandoned Savona Mill in 2019, or before then, after he lost his son and moved to Charlotte only for him and his daughter to be relegated to living in a storage unit on North Davidson Street.

Even as Singleton moved onto the 11-acre Nebedaye Farms site, owned by the Carolina Farm Trust, in 2019, his struggles weren’t over. He was the victim of racism from backwards neighbors, one of whom was even arrested on charges of ethnic intimidation.

And still Bernard Singleton pushed on, in some ways motivated by the hate to keep going, but mostly driven by the knowledge that what he’s doing is important.

And that’s what Singleton shares in common with the subjects of all of the stories included in our 100th Issue: the determination to keep things moving, fueled by passion and the belief that what they’re doing matters.

I recently had the privilege to speak to an Entrepreneurial Journalism class at Queens University, led by Charlotte Ledger’s Cristina Bolling, and during my visit one of the students asked me a matter-of-fact question after hearing me talk about the financial struggles of co-owning a media company.

Ryan Pitkin and co-founder Justin LaFrancois work on painting newspaper boxes during the launch of Queen City Nerve. (Photo by Grant Baldwin)

Despite our growth as a company, my business partner Justin LaFrancois and I don’t pay ourselves salaries just yet, and both keep part-time jobs on the side to help supplement our income, which can be incredibly tiring and not exactly how I pictured life at 36 years old, but our mission is to put the money we are making back into the business and so as to continue the growth we’ve seen in our first four years.

“So why are you still doing it?” the student asked incredulously.

We’re still doing this because we think the stories we’re telling are important, and that local, independently owned media is important. There aren’t many of those outlets left in this city, after all.

Alt weeklies have closed around the country, and many in the media landscape have written them off as unsustainable, but we have found that not to be true, it just takes innovation, dedication and patience.

And so, as Bernard Singleton told me during my most recent trip out to his farm, “We ain’t going anywhere.”

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