The very first Independent News was published on July 1, 1999. On the cover is a sign with a cocktail glass in a red circle with a slash through it. The sign on the sandy dunes topped with sea oats on Pensacola Beach reads: “No Alcoholic Beverages Allowed On Casino Beach Or Any Other Public Area Of Pensacola Beach. Violators Subject To Arrest And Fine.”
The headline on the cover story in that first issue is “Sun, surf but…no suds?” Another story points out that Gulf Shores beaches went dry in the mid-1980s.
This past week, the Santa Rosa Island Authority was still debating alcohol on the beach. Of course, they voted to study the issue some more.
When our first issue came out, my hair was brown. The reason it’s now gray is that so many issues—like alcohol—have lingered on without any action.
However, we have made some progress. Pensacola has a new form of government and has its first strong mayor. The Community Maritime Park is getting closer to completion every day. The “Good Ole Boy” triumvirate–Ronnie McNesby, Mike Whitehead and George Touart–has gone down in defeat. And the Pensacola City Council has approved a disparity study to improve its procurement process.
We’ve coined the words “Trilliumzilla,” “Plopacola,” “Tick Tock Gang” and others. We added blogs and have done radio and television shows to build our media empire. We’ve battled and bedeviled naysayers, knuckleheads and Luke McCoy.
We founded Pensacola Young Professionals and created highly anticipated and respected issues like “Best of the Coast,” “Rising Stars,” and “The Power List.” We’ve championed local businesses with our “Stay Local” campaign and our Restaurant, Bar and Summer guides.
In that first issue, I wrote about my late dad, Richard Outzen Sr., dragging me to Joe’s Sports Parlor in Greenville, Miss., at 6:30 a.m. Saturdays for breakfast no matter how late I had been out the prior night.
There, dad held court for nearly two hours with other Mississippi Delta community leaders. Insights would be shared, news behind the headlines revealed, colorful stories and barbs traded, problems discussed and solved, and political support solicited.
One thing that stuck with me was my father’s often repeated phrase:
“A man’s actions will tell you more about him than any of his words.”
In that column, I promised that in my paper there would be “no targets,” “no protected figures” and “no sacred cows.” Writers would not be told what to write, nor have their stories fit a preconceived editorial slant.
Twelve years later, you be the judge. Most of the IN staff and its writers were just out of high school when we published the first issue, but they have carried on the IN tradition and taken it to new levels.
We’ve taken some hits, but we’ve made it to 12.
And we’ve lived up to my original commitments to this community.