Nick Hook never envisioned himself as an editor. When he was thrust behind the helm of the Whittier Globe in April of last year, he had virtually no writing experience. Nick had been shuffling between gigs as a rocker with Vinnie and the Stardusters and a lackey in the corporate world when he decided to submit an article to his brother and then-Globe-editor, Jamie. Suddenly, Jamie was fired or quit, depending on whom you ask. And since the Globe’s two-member board president, Ralf Runquist, a spry eighty-four-year-old, had no interest in managing the paper, he allowed Nick to take control on a temporary basis. After three months, another Hook was officially in charge.
Rarely more than eight pages and printed on the cheapest paper, the Globe has been the Whittier community’s voice since 1976. There are no offices, just a P.O. Box and Hook’s cell phone. Meetings are held nomadically, via the telephone, or at local bars or a favorite Vietnamese restaurant, over mock duck sandwiches and bubble tea.
The Globe could be called a poor man’s Onion, a punked-out rag that pokes good-natured, boozy fun at local events and politics. It is unlike any other newspaper in the Twin Cities. Under Hook’s tutelage, the Globe has steered away from such yawn-inducing stories as, “City Out of Compliance With Federal Mediation Agreement” and toward screaming yellow journalism like, “Pumpkin Vandals!”
On one occasion, when news was slow, Hook sent an inebriated pal to cover a Whittier Alliance meeting. Like a small-scale Hearst kick-starting the Spanish-American War, the “reporter” glommed onto one of the meeting’s many talking points and inflated it into a lighthearted controversy. Accompanying the article was a photo of a young woman dressed in a short skirt, sexy black boots, and a hat and mask, holding a letter said to be offensive.
Of course, there have been setbacks and some of Hook’s jokes haven’t gone over so well. After he suggested that readers avoid the Wedge Community Co-op, for example, claiming that organic vegetables are nothing more than conventional food that has been washed really well, his paper lost the co-op’s advertising for several months.
Hook, in his mid-thirties, is a bed-headed manic with the wide eyes and uncontrolled gesticulation of a guy either tremendously caffeinated or consistently thrilled. Almost immediately after coming on board, he had the idea to make the Globe more of a laugh than a snooze. “This is all for fun,” he said. “It has to be, since we don’t make any money. I pay our writers with beer when I take the staff out every other month and pick up the tab.” Hook himself receives a modest stipend of a couple hundred bucks each month, certainly not enough to live on.
Editing the Globe is a slapdash affair. Hook rounds up articles toward the end of each month and then pushes them through at the last minute, filling empty space with odd tidbits like dating contests and photos of cats or his friends’ children. Sometimes, when the events calendar is sparse, he’ll add fake happenings like an audition for Subhuman, a musical about the “fascinating life of three modern tow-truck drivers!”
During Hook’s tenure, the Globe has launched a variety of oddball columns like “Ask the Nurse,” in which readers (real and imagined) seek medical and fashion advice; “Ask Oscar,” a six-year-old boy answering child-rearing questions as best he can; “Everybody Is A Star,” a horoscope that explains its vague advice in terms of movie plots; and “Don’t Knock It ‘Till You’ve Tried It,” Shannon Keough’s monthly rumination on new adventures, like severing her Achilles tendon or suffering through a personal-finance class. A recent contest, featuring a photo of half-bared cleavage, was called “Win a date with these!”
No one seems to know who really owns the Globe. Runquist, though, has run the paper for ten years—he took over after the editor at the time literally dropped dead during a delivery run—and seen it through various incarnations. While disapproving of the paper’s newfound interest in boozing, it turns out that he’s generally pleased with the product. “Some of the articles seem strange to me,” he admitted. “But that’s the new generation, I guess. It’s become a fun thing, and I like that.”
Hook has serious goals for the gabsheet. He’d like to draw more advertisers, pay his writers with money instead of alcohol, and someday print more than eight pages at a go. What he doesn’t want is for the paper to be like all the other neighborhood monthlies. “If we can get five more advertisers, that would be good,” Hook said. “But it’s not going to come at the expense of the articles. There’s a lot of humor in this neighborhood and in the meetings.” He laughed. “Though some day I might just try and please Ralf and have an alcohol-free issue.”
This article originally appeared in The Rake magazine.