The first issue was a "disaster," says the Chronicle's co-founder, "a calamity so legendary that, for much of a decade, copies of it were not allowed in the office." The cover featured Shock Treatment, a movie destined never to open, and it was completely purple as the result of a miscommunication with the printer. The present-day Chronicle is "a paper as honest as we can get it," Black says. "We don't just create this paper, we're fans. We can't wait to see what's going to be in the next issue and the next and the next." In addition to Black's column in the Sept. 8 issue, the Chronicle posted a 25th anniversary photo album online.
In the last issue of his alt-weekly's 25th year, Louis Black offers up "Ten Ways of Looking at an Austin Chronicle," one of which is as a "non-award-winning weekly." Black says that the Austin Chronicle staff usually doesn't have time to submit entries in the AltWeekly Awards, and even when they do, they "rarely win." (The Chronicle has won a total of five awards, including a 2006 first-place award for Drugs Reporting.) "I argue that this is because the awards have evolved to the point where they honor the weeklies that are the most like the glossy magazines, with very long, in-depth stories beating out most of the others," Black writes. "More often than not, many papers engage in the type of 'gotcha! journalism' in which a City Council member is exposed to be self-serving, using public money to enrich him or herself, and/or to be found with an underage boy or girl or animal of any age."
The co-founder and editor of the Austin Chronicle is a self-loathing, temperamental, explosive jerk. And that's just what his friends say about him. Despite his foibles, however, everyone seems to agree that this amazingly passionate man (pictured), co-founder of the SXSW music, film and interactive festivals, deserves a lot of credit for Austin's cultural prominence. "Without Black, a music fanatic and film savant, the self-proclaimed 'Live Music Capital of the World' would lack much of its cultural stock," writes Chris Garcia in the Austin American-Statesman. "I look back and think that in some ways I am the luckiest person I know," says Black. "I do what I love. I do it every day."
Greg Mitchell's Thursday column on EditorandPublisher.com describes Louis Black's role in financing and producing Be Here to Love Me, a new documentary about the late singer/songwriter Townes Van Zandt. Black was personally acquainted with Van Zandt, and describes him as "usually pretty fucked up but very friendly." The Chronicle also printed a cover story about the film; Black says that "if the staff felt it was a conflict of interest, believe me, I would have heard about it." Be Here to Love Me has been well-reviewed for its warts-and-all portrayal of Van Zandt. Black is now working on a book about the films of Jonathan Demme.