Editor’s note: The ‘RN&R’ carved me a niche

In this, our 30th anniversary issue, RN&R staffers, current and former, have shared memories and stories from the paper’s lifespan. One of the running themes in these accounts: “The RN&R took a chance on me, and it changed my life.” 


For me, 2004 was a doozy. I had a baby. My brother died. My marriage collapsed. I moved to a new city and set out to attempt to get my life on some sort of stable course. 

In November, Brian Burghart hired me to be the RN&R’s arts editor. We both knew I was underqualified. I was 33, and while I’d worked for my college newspaper 10 years beforehand, I’d spent more of my post-college years working in restaurants than newsrooms. I hoped that I could make a case for myself as the kind of person you might want to hire based on potential alone. 

I had a steep learning curve to climb; Brian held the ladder. He provided a crash course in journalism. He eviscerated my drafts. He talked me out of the meandering, academic shlock I’d been accustomed to writing. The Strunk & White’s rules-of-composition poster hanging on his office wall convinced me that, for a writer, clarity and structure were not restrictions, but tools worth mastering. I was soon churning out words that people might actually want to read. 

Long before my time, the RN&R had established itself as a news outlet that reported on a small city’s art scene like it mattered—and positioned itself to keep that art scene in the public eye, to help it grow and flourish. 

Something about that arrangement just clicked for me. You see, in addition to being an entry-level editor and a really good waitress, I was also a three-time art-school dropout. I had spent enough hours in graduate seminars to be able to speak the language of the art world’s more exclusive echelons—but I really didn’t want to. These conversations weren’t about getting to the creamy middle of things. They weren’t about delving into the stories of the many people who commit to life in an industry that offers no promise of financial security; these conversations were about keeping art sealed in an ivory tower of abstruseness, in order to uphold its monetary value. Don’t get me wrong—I acknowledge that without such a process to uphold monetary value, there would be no art world. But still, I just never could get my blue-collar heart to give a damn about those parts of the conversation. 

So suddenly, there I was, newly empowered to be part of the solution to this problem I’d always had with the way the art world talks about itself. 

My work was cut out for me. I would try, over and over, to get my finger on just why and how a subject as potentially esoteric as art seems so important. I would attempt to discuss it in a way that could resonate with art-world insiders and ordinary people in the same breath. 

I had found my niche, one that I’d previously had no idea existed—“Nevada arts writer.” 

I don’t want to sugarcoat this—the 19-year journey between that moment and this one has been as circuitous as any. I moved to the Bay Area for a few years (though I did keep contributing to the RN&R while I was gone). I made some semblance of a “living” in journalism, which was usually not enough to support a child. I supplemented my income teaching elementary school and college classes, and I kept waiting tables on and off until I was 44. 

But those stars that aligned for me in 2004 stayed aligned. I still live in that niche. The RN&R took a chance on me, and it changed my life.