As the Capitol world evolves in 20 years, City Pulse thrives


The light on my landline telephone answering machine was blinking. 

It was summer 2001. My new wife and I had moved back to Lansing from Boston. We hadn’t gotten our phone number more than a week or so prior. We had both started our new jobs. Few people had our new home number. Surely, telemarketers hadn’t gotten a hold of our information, yet.

Who could possibly be calling?

“Hello, Kyle, it’s Berl … .”

My old general manager at The State News, Michigan State University’s college newspaper. He’d left The State News. It turns out he was starting out a new weekly publication and needed some help. He had heard I was back in town and … . 

Twenty years later, I’m still here. My role with City Pulse has changed over time. Sometimes I was a contributor, writing numerous election previews. Sometimes with a byline. Sometimes not. I provided commentary on the paper’s weekly radio show on 88.9 p.m. for a spell. 

We took a hiatus every now and again, but my weekly column on state and local politics has made the paper for a few years now.

More important, City Pulse is still here, even when — at times it appeared it wouldn’t be. 

Early on, the Lansing State Journal tried with its own entertainment-based weekly. Originally advertised as providing fresh content wrapped in a snazzy layout, the product fizzled out.

Kroger’s decision not to stock the paper while letting other corporate media keep their publications on the racks near the exit was hypocrisy.

And, yet, City Pulse survives. The consistency of the newspaper coming out every Wednesday morning — rain or shine — in this rapidly changing industry is a notable accomplishment. Other newspaper racks are disappearing. If City Pulse’s are empty, it’s because interested readers have wiped out the recent editions.

For 20 years. So much has changed in that time.

In 2002, my full-time job at the Capitol news service MIRS required I walk to the media room in the Capitol every evening to check the press boxes. Did anyone slip in a late news release?

E-mail? Press releases came in by FAX machine. Our own publication stopped going to a printed version in 2004. 

Back then, The Associated Press had four full-time reporters covering the state Capitol. Until recently, they were operating with only one. The Lansing State Journal had a pair of Capitol reporters 20 years ago. A columnist opined on the goings-on inside the dome. As of today, no reporter on their staff list is assigned full time to the Capitol.

Twenty years ago, I clipped all my stories and stuffed them (along with the press releases) into manila folders. Last month, I unboxed those files after moving my office. First time I’d touched them in years.

Apparently, there was a time when I didn’t rely on my iPhone to connect with everyone. I relied on my Franklin Covey to keep appointments and remember phone numbers.

The computer at my office didn’t move back in 2001. Laptops were clunky, unwieldy and used only in emergencies. Today, my office is wherever I put my laptop and my bag. At the moment, it’s my breakfast nook. Tomorrow, it could be just about anywhere with a cell signal.

Twenty years ago, I was the new kid on the block. Reporters with decades of experience seemed to know everyone in town. How would I ever accumulate so many sources and experiences?

Today, outside of my publisher, the venerable Tim Skubick and public radio personality Rick Pluta, fellow State News alum Zach Gorchow and I are at the top of the seniority food chain in terms of Capitol reporters.

To me it makes 20 years of City Pulse that much more exciting. Seeing the churn and progress made in our profession, there are so many reasons a Lansing weekly wouldn’t survive. 

And, yet, it does. Thanks to you. 

For me, I’ll do my part to keep it going another 20.

(Kyle Melinn of the Capitol news service MIRS can be emailed at melinnky@gmail.com.)

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