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Celebrating 25 Independent years

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25 years of:

Writing: Indy alums discuss journalism's future

Photographs: 1983-1989: A slide show

Music: A scrapbook of ephemera from the local scene

Funnies: Political cartoons V.C. Rogers

Arts: Change is constant—and mostly good

Films: We're hospitable now, so when will the filmmaking begin?

Timeline: Events that shaped the Triangle and the Indy

Coda: Our postmodern publisher


"The left-wing attack media from hell."

Former N.C. Secretary of Transportation Tommy Harrelson's summation of the Independent in 1992, following our five-part expose, "Highway Robbery," which chronicled the connections between campaign contributions and road construction—and skewered Harrelson.

Twenty-five years: That's old for a gymnast, young for a politician, prime for a bottle of Scotch. In dog years, the Independent is 175; measured in light years, it is equivalent to the distance from earth to Vega, the brightest star in our night sky.

However you count it, the Indy has been around. In the early days, the paper was cobbled together by a small band of malcontents, supported by the tithings of believers. Dissatisfied with what passed for justice, the writers roamed the halls of power to ferret out answers to their questions—like modern versions of Diogenes the Cynic, the ancient philosopher who wandered Greece carrying a lantern, looking for an honest man.

A quarter-century later, the mission is unchanged. There are more of us malcontents, still asking those fundamental questions of justice, truth and accountability; unfortunately, the answers from the powerful remain the same.

Think about it, really, the small miracle that is the Indy—and that like us, you, the readers, have hung in there. Together we have survived Ronald Reagan and Jesse Helms, Elizabeth Dole and George W. Bush; the Iraq War, and its prequel, Gulf I; the war on drugs, the war on terror, the war on our civil liberties. We've made it through two recessions, and we're plowing into a third.

We've endured the disturbing trends of media ownership. A few behemoth corporations control most news, as if these absentee landlords are best suited to explain the intricacies of Wake County's politics, Durham's class issues, Orange County's growth. Then when corporate profits fail to meet a nigh-impossible 30-percent mark, the editorial staffs are pruned like boxwood, and ultimately, society pays the price: less informed, less engaged, less willing to question the conventional wisdom.

Yet, the Indy has the same primary owner, who still lives in Durham, who still drops by the office most weeks and makes the rounds.

Like any benchmark, anniversaries are a time to reflect, but more important, to look forward. On some future anniversary, maybe the 40th or even the 35th, it's likely you'll be reading the Indy not by interpreting inkblots stained on the pulp of dead trees, but instead, perusing www.indyweek.com solely on a computer, handheld e-tablet or other mobile device.

Technology is shaping not only the craft of journalism but also the business of it. Video, slideshows and blogs change how we tell stories, while we gauge our readership no longer only by the number of papers picked up, but also by unique visitors, page views and clickthroughs.

It's an unknown frontier, as uncharted as the path from here to Vega. Odds are, the Indy will find its way. See you in 25.

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