If you were lucky this week, next to your go-to Weekly rack sat a stack of the last edition of Las Vegas CityLife, which you should have grabbed. Even as it limped past the 21-year mark last November, CityLife remained a scrappy and impassioned alt-weekly, or, as former news editor Hugh Jackson used to call it, the free paper with sex ads in the back. Over the past few years, those ads—both the R- and PG-rated versions—diminished so much that it’s any wonder the paper survived for so long. Perhaps the pub was as persistent and unyielding as its writers. I should know—for nearly 13 years, I was one of them.
My first post-collegiate job was at CityLife. After my graduation from UCLA in June 1998 and repeated exploratory trips to Las Vegas, I sent my résumé to the four area publications (including a newborn Weekly). Only CityLife responded, eventually offering a paid, part-time internship. One scan of the newspaper and I accepted.
The most formative year of my career followed. I was encouraged to write about music fearlessly, which—while pissing off certain influencers—established me as an honest newcomer. Once I became a staff writer, the requirement for me to venture outside my music beat helped me hone my reporting and story-brainstorming skills.
And after my introduction to Club Utopia in 1999, I successfully made the case to my editor that CityLife should be the first in town to cover DJ culture. Upon becoming Arts & Entertainment Editor that August, I initiated the “Fear and Lounging” section, where I could straddle both local music and nightlife. I loved it, and during this time, we thrived—our 1999 local music issue hit a 100-page high.
Through the years, I felt emboldened to operate freely within those coverage spheres, knowing my editors trusted me and my publishers exercised minimal oversight. Even when Review-Journal owner Stephens Media bought the paper in 2005, we retained our independence—though, in hindsight, maybe too much so.
Commentary has abounded regarding CityLife’s decline, but its kneecapped ad department couldn’t even pitch the gloss-free rag to casinos—the lifeblood of any major local publication—because they were the exclusive domain of the R-J sales reps, allegedly required to upsell the weekly. You can see how that strategy turned out.
For all the dampened enthusiasm that anxiety caused, the staff remained empowered by CityLife’s integrity and editorial latitude, and fought on its behalf when it could. I know I did. It’s the least I could have done, given all that it did for me.