It is hard to believe this is our 400th issue. It doesn't seem possible. It's been over nine years. Our first issue came out September 23, 1993. We were monthly for 20 issues and then bi-weekly for two in June of 1995, going weekly in July of that year. We've gone from a single room with one computer and printer to an entire building with two computers and printers (just kidding). We started at the old Great Western Supply building on Western Avenue in downtown Davenport, known back then as Gallery West, and three office moves later are now publishing from the historic Chas F. Ranzow & Sons building directly south of it on West Third Street.

One of the biggest things to celebrate from our perspective is the team of creative, dedicated, and highly professional souls who make this publication happen every week. From our managing editor Jeff Ignatius to graphic artist Cheryl Phoun to sales guru Tom Swanson and our new addition Becky Moeller to our man Friday and circulation manager Rick Martin, we are swimming against the tide beautifully. Add to this mix long-time contributing columnists Joe Collins, City Shorts author, and Mike Schulz, movie reviewer, along with veteran distributors like Jay Strickland, Doreyne Anderson, and John Ditto, and we have the best of the talent pool. We also boast a host of local freelance writers, cartoonists, and photographers such as Zach Carstensen, Mike LoGuidice, Jill Pearson, Kevin Schafer, T.S. Hart, and Brian Barkley, all of whom contribute mightily to the quality of the River Cities' Reader. Finally, a special thanks to Dave Doxsee, who is, and always has been for the nine plus years we've been around, the Reader's technical port in the storm. There wouldn't be a 400th issue without his dedicated care and expertise.

There is a collective passion for what we are doing with the Reader. We have in common a meeting of the minds about the necessity for an alternative news and cultural information source. We each deeply believe that what we do for a living is a meaningful contribution to the Quad Cities community. We each recognize that the alternative newsweekly is the last bastion for independent journalism in the country. We are each committed to the truth and to disseminating it to our readers, recognizing their intelligence and need to know.

The 400th issue is one of great pride and gratitude to our team, and to our readers and advertisers who support our mission in providing relevant journalism that is not constrained by commercial interests over the public's right to know. We've had our mission statement printed on our business cards for some time and reproduce it here for our readers to know:

As the Quad Cities' independent newsweekly, our mission is to publish in-depth, context based reporting, as well as provide comprehensive and critical arts, music and culture coverage. The Reader endeavors to make a meaningful difference in our community, and to enrich the lives of our employees, readers and advertisers.

We've strived to follow this mission over the last 399 issues and feel good about the niche we've both carved out and helped fill in the Quad Cities. Our format of watchdog journalism, call-it-like-we-see-it approach to editorials, and critical analysis of our community's cultural scene is a staple in most major and medium-sized communities nationwide.

This combination of independent journalism and comprehensive arts and culture coverage has fostered a more active, engaged, and sophisticated audience, including a younger readership that no other medium can claim. It is interesting to note that recently the Chicago Tribune and the Chicago Sun-Times both launched a knock-off version of the alt-weekly format. Along with Gannet in some additional markets, these daily papers are attempting to duplicate this formula that relates to the demographic they've continually been unable to generate any loyalty with. Will we see one in this community from our respective dailies? Perhaps, but one has to wonder how much money these papers will have to sink into supplemental products to learn that they can always publish meaningful and relevant data in the paper they already print every day.

Meanwhile, even communities smaller than the Quad Cities (Springfield, IL for example) have independent weeklies that are nearly double our size. Had either the publisher or myself been formally trained in journalism or marketing/advertising, then perhaps we would not have had the uncommon sense to start an independent rag in this very over-served bifurcated media marketplace. This format did not take off here with huge growth spurts in the first five years like weeklies did in other markets. The reasons are many and varied, including a shallow talent pool or brain drain in the community of young bright talent, the Quad Cities' penchant for being very slow on new ideas and changing habits, and our friends at Lee Enterprises implementing a monopolistic stranglehold on major distribution outlets for the free press in 1994. The latter has been resolved thankfully, more and more young talented people are moving to the Quad Cities, and all of our civic and business leaders seem to be firing on the same piston in concentrated efforts to retain our recent graduates and younger workforce.

But we've also had to recognize our own weaknesses and improve our own product ?not take ourselves too seriously, include more voices, balance Iowa and Illinois news coverage, and get bigger type, for instance. We've worked hard at all of these things as Jeff Ignatius (recently promoted to Managing Editor) explores in his column on page 7. With fresh readership input, some newly hired talent, a strong game plan for improved news products and distribution expansion, we are very hopeful for another 400 issues in the Quad Cities. Thank you for your continued support by picking us up every week and actually reading us before recycling us!

Special thanks to Jeff Ignatius for his concept for the cover collage and Brian Barkely for his superb execution.

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