August 5, 2007

Alternative smart ass

An interview with…

City Link

In this interview, Jake Cline offers only one piece of good advice, and that’s at the very end. The rest of his answers are snarky, silly, and/or sophomoric – kind of like the alternative weekly he oversees.
And both seem to like it that way.

What’s more instructional is his history. After graduating from the University of Florida in 1993, Cline says he “spent the following year working as a laborer for my father’s construction company, as a freelance writer, and as a part-time copy editor and reporter for a trade magazine geared toward the office-filing-systems industry.”

He published his first freelance article in XS (City Link’s predecessor) in 1995, followed by stints as a music columnist, copyeditor, entertainment editor, and managing editor. He became editor 16 months ago. Part of his success has been his adaptability: He sardonically lists one of his previous titles as “waterboy,” but over the past decade, no job was too big or too small – and now he has the biggest job in the place.

Created by the Sun-Sentinel in 1991, the original XS was the first major alternative publication launched by a Top 100 newspaper. From the Miami New Times to the Columbia Journalism Review, the irony of an “alternative press” owned by a “mainstream press” was pilloried and parodied.

Under Cline, City Link has spurned the typical alt-weekly model that favors long cover stories on local government for the power crowd. Instead, his focus is on entertainment for working guys. And if you don’t like it, he doesn’t care. Which is pretty darn alternative, actually…

What’s the difference between City Link and the Sun-Sentinel?

The Help Team.

What’s the difference between City Link and New Times?

On average, about eight pages.

Biggest misconception that other journalists have about you, your job, and your publication?

You’d have to ask them. I’m only concerned with what readers think of the magazine. When I’m writing or editing, the opinions of other journalists never enter my mind. I leave that to those journalists who like to carry on about awards and whatnot. But that’s probably because I’m allergic to plaques and ribbons.

Looking back on it now, one thing you wished you knew before you took over City Link?

That I would have to attend so many meetings. I would have asked my boss for a more comfortable chair.

Any advice for a journalist who wants to run a publication someday?

If you like working from home, going into the office only when you must, knowing what it’s like to be outside in the fresh air at 2 p.m. on a Tuesday and not owning a single pair of khaki pants, stick to reporting. Otherwise, have at it.

Experts say print is dead and twentysomethings only read online. But City Link is still fat. Why is that?

Hey, who are you calling fat?

How does Sun-Sentinel ownership affect City Link, both for good and ill?

The good: The Sun-Sentinel throws an amazing holiday party. The ill: That holiday is Arbor Day.

One piece of advice you wish you could surgically implant into the skulls of new grads and young pros?

Before sending out a query letter or email, make sure you’ve spelled the name of the publication and its editor correctly. I can’t tell you how many pitches I’ve received addressed to Jake Clein, Jake Klein, Jay Klien, and Jake Clean – at City Links, Citi Link, and Citylink magazine. If you can’t spell my name correctly, how the hell can I expect you to get a source’s name right? Particularly if that source is Boutros Boutros-Ghali.