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Goodbye, City Paper

By Molly Eichel City Paper was where I made the mistake of falling madly and deeply in love with journalism. I can't say that it's a healthy relationship, but it has its perks. Like, as an intern, when I was called into then-City Paper editor in chief Duane Swierczynski's office and he asked me if I wanted to write the bar column.

Of course, I did. I neglected to tell him I was 19.

So I spent that summer scamming my way into watering holes from Pennsport to Port Richmond in the name of the fourth estate. My method was to take a City Paper business card that read "Intern," scratch that off, and write my own name in. I would coolly tell the bouncer I was press and breeze on through as if I had, you know, actually been to a bar before.

It's through City Paper that I learned to love Philadelphia, tromping through different neighborhoods, talking to people from all different creeds and wards. It's where I got my first staff job. It's where I learned to cold call a source. It's where my first pieces of criticism were published. And it's the first place where I made a giant mistake.

That's what I mourn when I mourn the loss of City Paper, which ceases publication on Thursday. Yes, it produced some fantastic journalism, but it also taught journalism. City Paper's legacy can be found in the New York Times, Rolling Stone, Buzzfeed, and even the White House. It was a place to try new things, rethink how to disseminate information, and get reamed out by editors who were making me better with every critique and line edit.

I joke that my greatest journalistic accomplishment is JCVD Week. My colleague Drew Lazor and I dedicated an entire week on the website to Jean-Claude Van Damme. But even a project as seemingly useless as honoring a bygone action hero taught me about audience engagement, how to plan a series, and that sometimes people just want to watch a video of Jean-Claude Van Damme dancing to the Mentos jingle.

Drew would later introduce me to his friend Jesse, who I still very much love even when he doesn't read my articles or take out the trash.

So RIP, City Paper. Thanks for making me and the countless other journalists privileged enough to get bylines in your pages exactly who we are.

Molly Eichel is an Inquirer staff writer.