Rybak and Meeker take City Halls
Two former AAN types have taken over City Halls in bloodless electoral coups that knocked off incumbents in Raleigh, N.C., and Minneapolis.
R. T. Rybak, the new mayor of Minneapolis, was publisher of the former AAN-member Twin Cities Reader, which closed in 1997.
“I think the sometimes wacky energy that he brought to the alternative press job stood him in good stead as he went on the campaign trail this year against a pretty solid incumbent,” says Claude Peck, fine arts editor of the Star Tribune, who was editor of the Reader when Rybak was publisher.
“R.T. was constantly talking about ‘shaking the pom-poms’ on this or that issue, so the fact that he ended up as the chief municipal cheerleader makes sense to me,” says David Carr, a contributing editor for New York magazine and a former editor of both Twin Cities Reader and the Washington City Paper.
“I can still remember sitting around the office and listening to him extol Minneapolis’ virtues and complain about all the opportunities being missed, so I guess he’ll have a crack at it now,” Carr says. “Here’s hoping that he’ll remember where he came from and give reporters the kind of access they need to do their jobs, which is making sure he does his.”
Charles Meeker, 51, also defeated an incumbent, who is a nephew of Sen. Jesse Helms, R- N.C., to become mayor of Raleigh, N.C., on his third try.
Mayor Meeker, the brother of Richard Meeker, publisher of Willamette Week, is a former investor in Independent Weekly.
“When he ran for office years ago, we had to put a big conflict-of-interest label on our endorsement of him, stating that he was an Independent shareholder,” says Steve Schewel, former publisher of the Durham, N.C.-based paper. “Before his next race for office in the late ’80s, he came to us and essentially gave us back his stock so our endorsement would be ‘clean.’ He’ll be a wonderful mayor of Raleigh.”
Richard Meeker says the two weeks he spent in Raleigh during the campaign “was one of the most exciting times of my life.”
“Not only did my brother’s campaign get the Independent’s endorsement this time around (as well as the daily’s), but it encouraged Raleigh’s alternative weekly, the Spectator, to issue its first-ever endorsements,” Richard Meeker tells AAN News. “Of course, there’s nothing quite like watching your baby brother emerge as a political dynamo.”
Rybak and Meeker are hardly the first alt-journalists to turn to the dark side. Among the most noteworthy is U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., who was once a reporter for the Pacific Sun.