I won't miss Metromix...just what it could have been

June 28, 2011
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Beyond my empathy for journalists in transition, the strongest feeling that I experienced when I learned of the axing of Metromix (formerly Indy.com formerly Intake) was frustration over opportunity missed.

When the Indianapolis Star launched its alt-but-not-really-alt weekly, I knew that part of the agenda was stealing ad dollars from Nuvo Newsweekly (and putting that independent publication’s survival at greater risk). But I also believed that Indianapolis could use another cultural voice and that competition could be good for the market. With an open mind, therefore, I looked forward to another, perhaps fresher, take on the arts life in Indy.

A few looks at Intake, though, left no doubt as to which freebie weekly I wanted to survive that donnybrook.

Anyone remember all of the lame “youth culture” films that the Hollywood establishment rushed into production after the success of the independent “Easy Rider”? That’s what Intake felt like. It pretended to be on the edge, but always seemed conservatively guided by grown ups with an eye-and-a-half on sales.

Yes, there was honest arts advocacy from the truly passionate Jim Walker and, at least in the early days, solid-but-truncated film writing from the knowledgeable Joe Shearer, but there was little else. No institutional memory (except from underused music scribe David Lindquist). No editorial vision. Few actual opinions. And a sad lack of wit, especially when it tried to be funny (the exception being the bite of photographer Michelle Pemberton).

With short-attention-span stories and a pandering predilection for packing as many faces into its pages as possible, Intake/Indy.com/Metromix sent the message that if you aren’t someone obsessed with staying trendy, this isn’t the publication for you. (And, side note, if you are obsessed with being trendy, what the heck are you doing in Indianapolis?)

In the Goodbye column in its final print issue, Metromix gave some staff members a chance to share memories.

No surprise that the lead item was given to someone in the marketing department.

I honestly don’t think I’ll miss Metromix. But I will miss what it could have been.

Your thoughts?

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  • RIP Metromix
    I paid really close attention to this publication when it was launched as INtake. I know some of the people who were involved in it (James Burnes and Michelle Pemberton in particular), and I really thought it had a lot of promise. I saw it as a real threat to Nuvo. (I hope Nuvo doesn't think of the demise of Metromix as vindication...Nuvo needs some real changes too.)

    Some of those early issues had some real local meat to them. And of course nobody anywhere can take a provocative photo like Michelle. Unfortunately as time went on, the publication became less and less meaty and interesting. I can't remember the last time I picked one up.

    If you want to focus a publication on young people, you need unique content to differentiate it from the bazillion online sources of movie times, etc. There was simply no reason to read Metromix on the Internet.
  • Why the Snarkiness?
    (And, side note, if you are obsessed with being trendy, what the heck are you doing in Indianapolis?) should have been omitted from this article.
    • no snark intended
      Sunny,
      No snark intended. I love the fact that Indianapolis doesn't seem as obsessed with following trends as other places seem to be.
      Lou
      • Conservative alternative
        Next time someone decides to launch an alternative weekly, consider the following brand attributes typically associated with the term alternative: unconventional, unorthodox, nonconformist and avante-garde. MetroMix missed the mark on all counts.
      • Moving on...
        For such a seemingly useless publication, Metromix is getting an awful lot of attention and criticism from local media. People keep holding it up to the standards of an alt-weekly, and acting offended because it didn’t meet their profound sensibilities and superior wit. Judging by Twitter, it had its fans.

        P.S. Weren't you the guy who gave Glen Campbell a good review when he was in town?
      • Indy & trends
        I disagree that Indianapolis isn't obsessed with following trends. It doesn't seem to create them too often, unfortunately, so when something does start here - craft beer, cocktail bars, food trucks, burlesque - people are quick to jump on and in some cases, overdo it.
        • Campbell, etc
          Shamtastic,
          I'm not offended. As I said in the piece, just believe the pub was an opportunity missed.
          And judge for yourself if the Campbell review was "good" or not. I'm not big on those kinds of classifications. Would love to hear your thoughts if you were at the show. Here's my reaction:
          http://www.ibj.com/lou-harrys-ae/2011/06/06/review-glen-campbell-and-jimmy-webb-and-the-palladium/PARAMS/post/27590
          Thanks for reading,
          Lou
          • Glen Campbell
            An excerpt from your review: "But with help he put on a terrific show."
            • ??
              And your point?
              • Glen Campbell, again
                You said in an earlier comment: "Judge for yourself if the Campbell review was 'good' or not. I'm not big on those kinds of classifications."

                And in reply, I simply quoted from your review: "But with help he put on a terrific show."

                So let me rephrase that initial comment: Aren't you the guy who gave Glen Campbell a *terrific* review when he was in town?

              • sham
                Sham,

                My point in making that comment was that I'm not a fan of reducing a review to a single word. Yes, I used the word "terrific" and stand by what I said about the show--all 700+ words of it.

                I appreciate that IBJ gives me the room to write at some length about what I see rather than having to reduce it to a sound bite or a grade.

                Related note: I wish the powers that be behind InTake/Indy.com/Metromix had allowed for more opinion in the paper. It would have been a more engaging publication. .

                Still, I'm not sure what your point is. I ask again: Were you at the Campbell show? Do you believe I'm being dishonest in what I've written? And what does any of that have to do with my thoughts on Metromix?

                Sincerely,
                Lou
              • INtake/metro/what?
                I was rooting for an alternative to the NUVO only bcz it really needs a face-lift and I thought I was going to get it with INtake. When it launched I read it every week and loved Michelle's pics and comments in the staff comments section. But as time ticked on, it became a whose who of no depth in both pics and content, which was sad bcz there was talent on that staff.
                We need something, doubtful the NUVO can deliver it - would love a weekly, even a monthly that has the freshness of the INtake's original staff and, I'm gonna say it, the fun of the Indy monthly men's mag, which I still miss! The bachelor chef, the articles, the we-don't take-ourselves too seriously...bring THAT back into the options.
              • Methinks...
                Methinks thou doth protest too much.
              • Yeah but...
                None of the things you mentioned started here. They are all things that have been happening on the coasts for years, and sometimes decades. Indianapolis, just as many cities in the midwest, is behind the times, and that can be a good thing.
                • clarification
                  Ca Aikman: Thanks for the shout out to the late Indy Men's Magazine.

                  Carl: Clarification please. Not sure which of the "things you mentioned" that you are referencing. Or who is protesting too much.

                  Thanks for adding to the conversation,
                  Lou
                • trendy Indy
                  I, for one (and clearly not the only one), appreciated the comment about Indy not being obsessed with trendiness. Most of the things Shamtastic listed are already old hat on the coasts--Californians seem to have decided granite countertops were passe several years ago. Indy's slow-to-the-bandwagon (if it doesn't spurn it completely) approach is characteristic of most Midwestern cities. Lou, as a transplant from the East Coast, seems to recognize that this characteristic can have its own cultural advantages. For example, you'll rarely here outside commentors using "Indianapolis" and "pretentious" together in the same sentence.
                • Well...
                  Lou, you're not being entirely fair here. You say: "It pretended to be on the edge, but always seemed conservatively guided by grown ups with an eye-and-a-half on sales." But then name-check people you think were talented and slag off the rest, immediately failing to consider that what you were seeing in print came through a filter. You cannot expect a corporate-controlled weekly A&E print publication to have the bite or editorial vision of an independent. You can't really expect editorial depth from a pub that focuses on the superficial -- night life, dining out, shopping for furniture, etc.

                  INtake was never really about editorial writing, to its detriment. As a former INtake columnist, I wanted to do and say more, but I was handcuffed not only by limited space (400 words) but by the narrow, milquetoast target market. I was never going to get the depth of David Hoppe in 450 words, and I didn't have the freedom to consistently get people stirred up a la Steve Hammer. So, I stuck to personal topics, kept things lighthearted and safe, and predictably, not many people read me (or much else in the pub). I got tired of writing shallow stuff in a vacuum and moved on.

                  It's telling that you mention the truncation of Joe Shearer's work, or the underuse of David Lindquist, or Michelle Pemberton's wit. Although known for her photography, Michelle had a staff quote of the week that many people, me included, looked forward to reading. Her irreverent, often laugh-out-loud quotes tended to stick out in a sea of safe blurbs from staffers who tended to provide cliches or other sentiments of mass appeal. Quotes like "Thank God it's Friday!" and "I love Jimmy Buffet!" often were hilariously juxtaposed with "Whips and chains!" or something else out of left field. Michelle became the token indie voice -- the one winking interloper -- and she wasn't a writer. She was an immensely quotable photographer. Try to stretch that kind of irreverence to 400 words, and you get something like the column I wrote about how Peyton Manning doesn't get enough exposure, and how he should do more endorsements. I got hilarious hate mail that week. I also started to realize who was actually reading.

                  There were many talented people at INtake/Indy.com/Metromix than you don't credit here. Matt Gonzales, Arnel Reynon, Mary Garrison, Rebecca Berfanger, Braden Nicholson, and many others were there at or near the beginning, and they had a responsibility to create a specific type of corporate product for a milquetoast target market. Say what you will about the aesthetics or the content of said product, but it's a testament to the talents of those involved that they could create a weekly pub under such narrow, corporate-controlled parameters and survive for several years in this market.
                • slagging
                  John,
                  Thanks for the detailed comments.
                  I singled out writers who I think were able to shine through the editorial constraints of I/I/MM. That's not in any way a judgment about what many of the other writers could have done in different publications or media or what they will do in the future. As a survivor of more than one collapsed pub, I wish them all well.
                  --Lou

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