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All about us

Erin Crowell - May 31st, 2011
By Erin Crowell
Behind our 20 year anniversary publication this month is a team of
hard-working—and sometimes crazy—folks who conceive, report, sell, layout
and deliver the area’s largest news weekly. Get to know the faces behind
the Northern Express!
NE: Wow. 20 years. Aside from starting up a new paper, what was on your
mind 20
years ago?
Downes: In 1991 I had spent about five years immersed in the running,
biking and fitness lifestyle, but it had started to get old, so I was
looking for a new challenge.  Ditto my career as a writer/editor in the
public relations department at Munson Medical Center.  We’ve all got only
one life to spend, and it seemed like the right time to spread my wings.
 In my case, that meant jumping off a cliff from a very secure,
good-paying job with great benefits into the dubious venture of launching
an alternative newspaper in one of the smallest markets in America in the
middle of a recession. It was a scary transition.
Foster: In 1991 I was happy running a small CPA firm and training for
triathlons and cross country ski races. I never even glimpsed the magic
carpet ride that Northern Express would provide.

NE: Bob -- in our 10th Anniversary issue, you asked “What to do about
Robert Downey, Jr?,” a celebrity who, today, is now clean, sober and star
of a major box office franchise.
George -- in that same issue (which dated May 3, 2001), you addressed
whether or not Tiger Woods will “endure the rigors of being on top.”
 Well, it seems your questions have been answered, if not more or less in
some translational meaning (right, Tiger?) What questions will you ask 10
years from now?
Foster: “Enduring the rigors” for Tiger Woods turned out to be something I
hadn’t quite imagined. Actually, the answer I am looking for today is what
will the Middle East look like in 10 years? The events of the last year in
Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, etc. have turned that region into a tinderbox and
provided great hope for the future. If the heavy-handed government in
Syria falls - as certainly seems to be the case - we will all be affected
by the fallout and oppressed peoples everywhere should feel like there is
less to fear from murderous, dictatorial leaders.
Downes: Sarah who?

NE: This is a section where you give a shout-out to the wives. 
Downes: This is also the 20th anniversary of meeting my wife Jeannette,
and the 15th anniversary of our marriage.  Jeannette owns her own day care
and more than 100 children have passed through our home through the
years.  Perhaps all of that youth has rubbed off on her because Jeannette
looks 10-15 years younger than her age. She is also a gardener of amazing
skill and, like me, a fitness buff. We have two grown children and four
grand kids.
Foster: My wife Suzi and I have been happily married for over five years.
Suzi has worked as an ultra-sound technician since... who knows when? She
also has a passion for gardening and travel. After being single for a
long, long time, I now barely remember being a bachelor. I am living proof
that you can be rewarded many times over to wait for the right partner to
come along - no matter how long it takes.

NE: Bob and George -- aside from your country hopping and sport following,
what is something Express readers truly don’t know about you?  
Foster: I’m not sure that my wife even knows I have a teaching
certificate. Though, I haven’t taught enough in my life to fill up even
one semester, my regard for teachers and the importance of education in
our future is considerable. There is no higher calling than the teaching
profession.
Downes: I’ve walked the 6-mile round-trip between my home and work daily
for most of the past three winters and commute by bicycle the rest of the
year. 

NE: How does a newspaper survive 20 years? I think everyone wants to
know... What is your secret?
Downes: Good stories. Technological advances such as the Internet and
social networking have their day in the sun, but
what remains constant is the human need
to hear a great story or a challenging idea. That need is as ancient as
the value of a tribal storyteller around the campfire 20,000 years ago.
Foster: Good people. For example, our sales staff is very service-oriented
with long-term connections to the business community. Our talented design
staff has won many awards. Bob, our co-founder and managing editor, has
the vision to find the stories that our readers want and bring them to
Northern Express on a weekly basis. Topping it off, everyone here at
Northern Express seems to care about the paper.

Colleen Zanotti, creative director

NE: When did you start at the Express and how did you get to that day?
Zanotti: 15 years ago I met Bob at a portfolio review and he asked me if I
would be interested in the creative director position, I was, and have
been here ever since. When I started, the paper was published monthly -
that lasted for a few issues. Then we went to twice a month, and within a
couple issues they decided to print weekly. So much for my part time job.

NE: What kinds of changes have you seen in the paper since you started--in
terms of design, content, advertisers? Any hopes/ideas for where it’s
headed?
Zanotti: From Pagemaker and pasting up the paper, Quark to InDesign,
software has played a major role in putting the paper together. We used to
have to mail (overnight) the paper to our printers, now we email it - huge
time saver and with the advent of the pdf file, improved accuracy.
We have some very loyal advertisers who have been with us since the
beginning – we must be doing something right!
Would like to see our web presence stronger, more timely and well-designed.

NE: You do MANY things when it comes to putting the paper together, from
beginning to end. What is a typical week like for you?
Zanotti: It’s non-stop - from advertising to layout, Kyra and I have daily
and weekly deadlines that we do our best to TRY to meet.

NE: How would you describe your own design? Do you tend to gravitate
toward certain styles or themes?
Zanotti: I like a classic, traditional look, but the client’s needs really
dictate the final style. You learn to address those issues in order to get
the message across.

NE: Take a step forward from behind the scenes and tell us a little about
yourself.
Zanotti: My husband Mick and I are Detroit transplants with three grown
sons – Patrick, Danny & Michael (and one daughter-in-law, Amy) who are
living in some great cities we love to visit. A wonderful, big family and
good friends keep us semi-sane.
I love what I do and own a design business, Something Blue, with a focus
on wedding invitations and stationery, and also do a lot of additional
freelance work. And now that the weather is warming up I hope to improve
my golf game so I won’t be picked last at the annual family reunion!

Kyra Cross: graphic designer

NE: When did you start at the Express and how did you get to that day?
Cross: I was born and raised in Traverse City and went to college at
Kendall College of Art and Design in Grand Rapids, Michigan with a degree
in graphic design. After graduating in the spring of 2006, I decided to
move back home to be close to my family and friends. I love Northern
Michigan and always knew I would end up back here. I applied for a
position here at the Northern Express. I’ll never forget my interview with
Bob and George (in his Hawaiian shirt). I was thrown in the mix and
quickly learned a lot about layout, production, and deadlines with a huge
help from Colleen (art director). Fast forward six years and here I am!

NE: You do MANY things when it comes to putting the paper together, from
beginning to end. What is a typical week like for you?
Cross: It’s hard to describe a typical week since each week can be so
different. Depending on size of the issue, theme, etc. Start on Monday
fresh with a blank screen and deadline on Friday. In-between is filled
with ad design, layout, and so much more. It can be hectic, that’s for
sure, but I like that it’s not always the same. Special issues can be a
lot of fun with changing the layout, colors, themes, etc.

NE: Do you tend to gravitate to certain styles or themes?
Cross: I tend to gravitate towards clean, informative, simple, smart
design. Design sometimes works…and sometimes it doesn’t. It’s something
you are always struggling with and pushing yourself in, trying to achieve
something great.

NE: Take a step forward from behind the scenes and tell us a little
about yourself.
Cross: I have my own freelance design business. It’s nice to have some
other creative projects outside of the paper. It keeps me inspired and
touching on other areas of design. I want to continue to grow and learn.
I feel extremely blessed to be able to live in Northern Michigan, the
outdoor activities and places to explore are endless. Put me anywhere in
Leelanau County and I am a happy girl.
Being close to my family, and great group of friends… Traverse City is
just getting better and better. Festivals, music, restaurants. Its fun to
see where it’s going. I also crave travel and have a long list of places
I want to visit.

Kristen Rivard
graphic designer

NE: Details?
Rivard: I moved to Traverse City with my family in 1993 and continued my
graphic design education at Northwestern Michigan College. I began
freelancing at Northern Express around 1998. I enjoy the eclectic content
of the paper as well as my coworkers. I’m delighted to be a part of the NE
family. Outside of graphic design, I like gardening, photography, tennis
and travel.

Patrick Sullivan,
investigative reporter

NE: How does it feel to be the “new kid?”
Sullivan: It is great to be here and I am a little bit nervous starting
out. It’s an honor to follow Anne Stanton. She did great work. It’s also
an honor to work with the people who’ve made this newspaper a really
important and interesting voice in Northern Michigan. Also, they are
really positive, welcoming people and I am incredibly happy to be here.
 
NE: You put your journalism career on hold to spend time with your son,
Henry. Can you tell us a little about what it was like being a
stay-at-home dad? 
Sullivan: I loved being a stay-at-home dad. I’m really lucky I had the
chance to spend the first couple of years at home with my son. It was so
much fun, especially after a point in the first year when Henry, and my
wife Jessica and I started sleeping through the night. Spending so much
time with my son allowed us to get really close. Two months ago he and I
were at the Great Lakes Children’s Museum and Henry met another little
girl and he wanted to introduce us. He told her, very seriously: “This is
my friend, Daddy.”
 
NE: What’s your favorite subject to write about?
Sullivan: I love to write about something that lets me tell a good story.
That means there has to be a good conflict and an action that follows that
and then some consequences.  Often that means crime stories. Crime shows
people at their best and their worst. I also love writing about
environmental issues because often there is the same kind of conflict.
Environmental stories also have a much wider importance, especially in
Northern Michigan, where we depend on the natural beauty that brings so
many people here.
 
NE: Tell us a little about yourself.
Sullivan: The most important thing about me in the last few years, aside
from family, is I’ve worked really hard to become a healthier person. I
haven’t had a cigarette in over three years. I finished the M-22 Challenge
twice and I’ve completed two other traditional triathlons, one a sprint
and the other an Olympic. The first time I ran a triathlon, the one in
Interlochen in 2009, I was pulled from the water during the swim because I
lost my breath and I just couldn’t swim any more. It was a horrible start!
But I finished one later in the year and did another one the following
year, and I am proud of that.

NE: What was your favorite moment in your career?
Sullivan: That is a difficult question because I feel like there have been
many highlights over the years. I worked at the Record-Eagle for 10 years
and I worked with a lot of good people there. I wrote a series of stories
about problems at the Benzie County Sheriff’s Department and I am proud of
those stories and I am grateful for the guidance I received from the
editors. In my first year at that newspaper, I was thrown in to covering
two of the most chilling murder cases in memory in Traverse City – the
murder of Sgt. Dennis Finch and the brutal slaying of Kaylee Bruce. Those
were difficult stories to report on for so many reasons, but looking back
I think I did a good job.

Richard Coates, contributing editor

NE: What is something readers may not know about you?
Coates: I published my first article at the age of 14, it was for the
Lansing Star (the alternative paper) and it was an interview with Richie
Blackmore of the band Rainbow. I am in my 34th year of writing and having
articles published and also in my 34th year of coaching youth sports. I
started coaching soccer at the age of 14 when no parent was willing to
coach my younger brother’s team. I have been coaching (football, baseball,
soccer, basketball and softball) ever since and still find it to be
rewarding.  I have been married for 24 years and have two children. 

NE: Food or entertainment -- which do you enjoy writing about more and why?
Coates: My personal preference is to write about interesting people,
especially people from Northern Michigan. I strive to ask questions not
typically asked. I like the diverse contributions I am able to make to the
Express, it makes the writing enjoyable each week and I feel it results in
a less manufactured product and a more organic feel for the readers.
One thing I have noticed is that the Express is different for every
reader. I get people coming up to me who say ‘yeah I know you, you’re the
guy who takes all those Seen photos’ and they seem to be surprised when I
mention that I write for the paper. While I primarily write about food,
drink and entertainment, I enjoy each topic equally as well as the
occasional investigative pieces. I am simply grateful for the opportunity
and the fact that this venue has allowed me to meet so many wonderful
people here in Northern Michigan. For me, in my own small way, my
editorial approach over the years is simply to be a written voice for the
many great people who are doing so many things that make this area one of
the greatest places to live and work on earth. 

NE: As an Express veteran, how have you seen the paper evolve?
Coates: I became a full-time contributor in 1999 making contributions
every week since and was elevated to contributing editor status in 2003.
The biggest change over the years for the Northern Express has been the
readers’ perception of the paper. In the early days the Express was
stereotyped and viewed as “alternative” and maybe not taken seriously by
the Northern Michigan community at large. Over the years the Express has
remained true to its original mission of focusing on local entertainment
and features and the topics of the day and it has been the community has
grown to value the Express. 
Since 2008 close to 200 papers in the U.S. have shut their presses down,
resulting in close to 40,000 job loses. The Express has survived this
shift in the newspaper business and actually enjoyed some of its best
years during this time.
Those who track the newspaper business point to the model that the Express
uses as a trend of the future and our publishers understood that 20 years
ago. Another move that the Express was ahead of other publications was
going with the virtual edition of the paper online, versus limited access
to some of the articles. Next up for the Express I see smartphone and iPad
apps or using tablets for readers to access the paper. One thing I never
see changing is our focus on the local. 

NE: Being a contributing editor and news producer for KLT’s Omelet and
Finster Morning Show, do you ever sleep?
Coates: I sleep in shifts, usually four hours at night 10 pm to 2 am and a
one to two hour afternoon nap. 

Erin Crowell, features writer/listing editor (questions by Robert Downes)

NE: Erin: you’re the youngest member of the Express team.  What were you
doing 20 years ago?  What did you dream of doing when you grew up?
Crowell: Twenty years ago, I had just turned seven. At that age, stories
on the digital revolution and our lakes’ environmental integrity would
have been lost on me; but given the column space, I could have told you
all about Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, my favorite color pink, and The
Cosby Show (which is how I measured time). I got the art gene from my
dad’s side and pictured myself drawing castles the rest of my life.

NE: Why would anyone be crazy enough to go into journalism at a time when
many newspapers are on the ropes?
Crowell: Regardless of how we get the news, it always needs to be told; so
I figured it didn’t matter if it was through blog or print, the world
needs storytellers.

NE: Who is the man in your life and why?
Crowell: Rick Wierman – we’ve been together for almost seven years; and
although older than me, he still acts like a kid (ask our friends). No one
has made me smile or laugh more. I love the guy.

NE: Attracting young readers is important to Northern Express: What was
your first impression of the Express when you encountered the paper for
the first time?
Crowell: Initial thought: ‘Wow, these are a lot of ads!’ But then I
noticed what those ads were and realized, ‘Hey, these are all local
businesses.’ I thought how cool it was to see such interesting content (my
favorites were News of the Weird and pretty much any story by Anne
Stanton) mixed with businesses that were right in my backyard.


Stephen Tuttle, columnist

NE: What’s your political background; and what was your journey back to
Northern Michigan?
Tuttle: I was born and raised in Traverse City and graduated from Traverse
City Central High School. I left college and grabbed a chance to head to
Boston and do some volunteer work on the congressional campaign of Father
Robert Drinan, the first Catholic priest ever elected to Congress (and the
first to be forced to give up his seat by the Pope). A couple years later
I was John Kerry’s driver in his run for Congress, an incredibly
illuminating experience.
I moved to Arizona, got married, had a son; and worked in the corporate
world but could never quite rid myself of the infection that is
politics. I gave up trying and began working full-time on political
campaigns. Ultimately, I became a communications specialist, helping
candidates develop overall campaign messages for television, radio,
print, direct mail, internet. For most campaigns, I also wrote the
material.
Also, I began writing a guest column in The Arizona Republic, the state’s
largest daily newspaper, which ran for a decade.
I returned to Traverse City for the simplest and oldest of reasons – love.
Due to a series of events so unlikely they would be unbelievable in a
script, I found myself here at a dinner next to a former classmate. In
fact, we had gone to school together from the sixth grade on and graduated
from high school together but had not seen or spoken to each other in 37
years. Now I get to see this beautiful, special woman every day as her
husband.

NE: What is your favorite part about writing the column?
Tuttle: Writing a column for the Northern Express is a wonderful
experience, an opportunity to be involved with the Northern Michigan
community in a unique way. It’s a tremendous privilege to have a voice in
these interesting times.

NE: What would readers be surprised to know about you?
Tuttle: More than two-thirds of the dozens of legislative and municipal
clients I worked for in Arizona were Republicans.

NE: Give us three words that you think best describe American politics today.
Tuttle: Insults, Innuendo, Ignorance

Kristi Kates, Modern Rock columnist, contributing editor

NE: When did you start at the Express and how did you get involved?
Kates: I actually hadn’t written for any other publications yet when I
started writing for Express. I was pretty naive back then, was
transitioning out of summer jobs into “real” jobs, and thought that if I
politely pestered (editor) Bob Downes enough, he’d give me a chance at
writing the Modern Rock column. Never mind that the column was already
being written by someone else! 
Fortunately, Bob must have seen something in my writing (or he just wanted
me to stop emailing him all the time.) I began writing little local
stories first - restaurant reviews and such - and when the Modern Rock
writer left Express, I resumed my pestering of Bob until he gave me a
trial run at writing the column. I don’t think anyone else has written it
since.

NE: What were some of your favorite stories or issues you’ve covered? Why?
Kates: It might be the obvious answer, but I do really like reviewing CDs
and writing music stories. I like discovering new bands, I like talking
with other musicians about what inspires them, and it’s fun to share those
insights with Express readers. I especially enjoy being sent to cover
Lollapalooza for Express every summer, it’s so awesome to hear such an
eclectic lineup of music all in one place.
But I have to say that my very favorite story ever for Express so far was
actually a non-musical one - when I interviewed Adam Savage and Jamie
Hyneman of Discovery Channel’s Mythbusters. Those guys are an absolute
riot, and I’m a fan.

NE: What is something the readers may not know about you?
Kates: In addition to writing and performing my own music, I do film
acting and voiceover through an agency in Manhattan. I spend part of the
year in New York City and on-location, and part of the year Up North on
Lake Michigan so I can visit with family. Thanks to the magic of the
internet, I can work for Express from anywhere.
NE: How would you describe yourself as a musician?
Kates: I’ve spent some time overseas, and I’m very inspired by the
indie-rock sounds of the UK, Scandinavia, and Western Europe, which in my
opinion have a bit more esoteric, introspective approach than a lot of
American music. So I think the songs I write may echo some of those
sounds.
I write on both guitar and piano, and blend in synths, beats, and loops;
sometimes I perform with a band, sometimes on my own. The last round of
acoustic shows I did in NYC were just me and a live drummer, which was
great fun.

Lynn Gerow, sales coordinator

NE: The date you started at the Express, how your ‘role’ or ‘job’ has
evolved throughout the years?
Gerow: I began at the Express the first week of October, 1999 as an ad rep
covering part of Grand Traverse County, Leelanau County and Antrim County.
Six years ago, my position evolved to sales coordinator, so I’m off the
road and in the office.

NE: What were you doing 20 years ago when the Express began?
Gerow: I was working as an ad rep for another publication which covered
Antrim and Kalkaska Counties. When I began as an ad rep for the Express I
was able to bring many of my clients with me.

NE: In your own words, what makes advertising in the Express work?
Gerow: Our demographics!! And, of course our readers who patronize our
advertisers.

NE: Memorable moment on the job?
Gerow: There are just so many especially after nearly 13 years here.
Probably when we moved into The Grand Traverse Commons, with its history,
the beauty which is being restored and being a part of the community. It’s
very exciting!

NE: When you’re not handling accounts, what do you like to do?
Gerow: I like to do crosswords.


Peg Muzzall, regional sales manager

NE: The date you started at the Express, how your ‘role’ or ‘job’ has
evolved throughout the years?
Muzzall: I started in with the Express in June of 1998 working part-time
for 3 months, and went full-time in September of that year. Initially, my
territory was much larger...I covered Boyne/Charlevoix, Emmet/Petoskey,
Cheboygan/Mackinaw, and Gaylord regions....then things evolved so I also
had Bellaire, and Ellsworth....then more evolution, so I no longer
currently handle Cheboygan/Mackinaw or Gaylord. Initially, I just sold
advertising, but now I’m also able to utilize my photography which is
really fun, and adds another dimension to my job.

NE: What is something your clients probably don’t know about you?
Muzzall: I would guess many clients aren’t aware that I was a dental
hygienist for 20 years in Santa Barbara, and two years in
Charlevoix/Petoskey before carpal tunnel problems forced me to move away
from that line of work. 
I’m sure many clients also don’t know that I spent two academic years
(1993-1995) teaching English as a second language in Barcelos, Portugal
(about 5 hours north of Lisbon). It was my 40th birthday to myself....I
had decided I wanted to live overseas, so enrolled in the TESL program
at University of California Santa Barbara going to school full time for
one year, and working full time as a hygienist to make it happen. I
sent out 200 resumes with cover letters, and got one job offer, so I
took it.  I had storage built in my garage, got someone to manage my
house as a rental, and I showed up in Portugal with 5 suitcases in a
torrential downpour, didn’t speak the language, and had never taught a
day in my life... talk about a reality check... definitely the most
colossal endeavor I’ve ever undertaken!

NE: What makes advertising in the Express work?
Muzzall: First of all, we have a great design, sales, and editorial team
with their finger on the pulse of what is going on in the region. Everyone
takes a lot of pride in their work, which is evident each week in the
paper, and we’re considered THE go-to publication for anything happening
in northwestern Michigan.
For me, what really sets Express apart from the pack has to do with our
writers and  the fact we’re not afraid to highlight hard news stories,
or some of the hot button issues other media may shy away from. Put all
that together, and you have a publication that a very broad demographic
of people look forward to reading every week (which is why 90% of our
readers pick it up weekly!).

NE: What’s it like to work from your home office? Can you give us a
preview of a typical day for you? 
Muzzall: Working from home necessitates being self motivated, and most
people tell me they could never do it, but I think 22 years as a dental
hygienist prepared me to be focused. You have to have game plan with an
element of structure, or you can’t survive working from home. My typical
day is probably not much different from any of the other sales reps,
except for the fact my office happens to be upstairs in my house, and I
have a German Shepherd or cat wandering in periodically.

NE: When you’re not handling accounts, what do you like to do? 
Muzzall: I spend most of my free time with family, friends or hanging out
with my animals (Sophie the Turbo Dog, and Tiago King Cat). I’m definitely
a sports nut, so am generally following whatever sport is ‘in season’,
(favorites being college football, basketball, and following my
God-daughter’s husband Jake Fox who plays for the Baltimore Orioles), love
walking the beach or woods in Petoskey and Cross Village with Sophie and
friends, enjoy fine dining at some of the great restaurants in the region,
and of course there’s my photography passion...


Jan Staycer, regional sales manager

NE: How has your ‘role’ or ‘job’ evolved throughout the years?
Staycer: My first day at Northern Express was March 21, 2002, the first
day of Spring!  After being a stay-at-home Mom for a few years after the
birth of our son, it was time to get back into the workforce, when I
noticed an ad for a salesperson position at Northern Express.  Because I
was already a fan and avid reader of the paper, I thought it would be fun
to try something new and different.  
I had an active account list of 14 clients that first week.    The market
and my territory has grown tremendously in the last nine years.  I
currently have almost 500 clients now, and thank goodness they’re not all
active at the same time!
I’ve been in some form of media advertising for 30 years.   I first
started my advertising career as a sales assistant with TV 7&4 back in
1981.   Of course, I was only 8 then! (laughs)

NE: What changes have you seen personally either with the paper or the
area or both?
Staycer: In the 9 years I’ve been with Northern Express, I’ve seen it grow
and evolve into what it is today.   Doing more investigative, local and
regional reporting, our readership has actually increased by 10% last
year, according to our outside auditing firm, Verified Audit.  I think the
biggest change in the advertising landscape is social media networks.  By
launching our (virtual) website, Northern Express has positioned itself
very well in the marketplace to reach online readers as well as those who
still prefer to read the hard copy of the paper.  And, we also have a
Facebook page... Friend us! 

NE: What makes advertising in the Express work?
Staycer: In a word, our readership.  We reach a year-round average of
approximately 75,000 people each week, covering 13 Northern Michigan
counties.  And because we’re a free publication, we have a loyal local and
regional readership.   Our readership has grown because the quality and
content of our paper has grown into a news and entertainment resource
unlike any other publication in the market.

NE: When you’re not handling accounts, what do you like to do?
Staycer: We love to travel.  As a John Lennon impersonator, my husband
Mark travels the world, mostly on cruise ships.  On occasion, he gets to
bring me and our son, Christian, along. We’ve been to Europe, Alaska, most
of the Caribbean and Mexico.  I also enjoy kayaking, cooking, gardening
and knitting.  Opie, our 2-year-old pug, rounds out “our little family.”


Kathy Johnson, regional sales manager

NE: What’s your background at Northern Express?
Johnson: I started at the Express in February of 2005 after being let go
from an organization in TC that was downsizing its sales force. Previous
to this, I did not have any experience in advertising or the newspaper
business. My whole career had been in sales and management, so I guess Bob
& George felt I might work out.
Working at the Express has been interesting and challenging as well as a
whole lot of fun. The best part of my job is meeting and talking with all
the entrepreneur types in our region. I love listening to their stories
and sensing their passion for what they are doing.

NE: What makes advertising in the Express work?
Johnson: 90% of our readers say they look for us every week. A big thank
you to our loyal readers! Entertainment, hard news stories and interesting
happenings in our 13 county distribution area are the backbone of the
paper. We are interested in the local scene and promote the vibe that is
Northern Michigan.

NE: What do you like to do in your free time?
Johnson: Let’s see now - My best day would be walking on an ocean beach
that stretches as far as the eye can see with my husband, Donn Johnson.
When we reach our little cottage at the end of our walk on the beach, we
would serve up ice cold shrimp cocktail that came off the boat just hours
earlier and then watch the sun set on a great day! Oh gosh, I’m
daydreaming again! Besides walking the beach I like to putz around my
house and garden and read Hemingway. I’m really a homebody, but just got
back from vacationing in the Florida Keys where I toured Ernest
Hemingway’s home and snorkeled for the first time!


Kristy Kurjan: MyStyle/fashion columnist

NE: How would you describe your diverse and impressive career? (let’s face
it, you’ve had some pretty cool jobs!)
Kurjan: A perfect combination of fashion and media. From my first job at
Style.com (Vogue on-line), to Glamour Magazine, then The Oprah Show in
Chicago, now at The Northern Express and the designer of Hydrangea BLU
dresses- I am a pretty lucky gal!

NE: Describe to us what has been your favorite career moment (interview,
story, getting a job, etc.)
Kurjan: I was on the cover of Glamour Magazine! Okay, it’s not what one
would hope, I was NOT the cover model... It was a “behind the scenes”
fold-out cover featuring what goes into a photo shoot. I appeared next to
the cover model, Teri Hatcher, as the “fashion assistant.”

NE: After New York City, Chicago and traveling all over the world -- why
Northern Michigan? What makes this place home for you?
Kurjan: My biggest passion is discovering new places. After traveling the
world, I wish I could live in more than one city. Alas, that is not
possible. At my core, I’m a Midwest girl. I love the change of seasons,
the water and the people. Northern Michigan is my hidden gem and there is
no where else in the world I would rather call home.

NE: As the one behind the MyStyle feature, how would you describe your own
personal style? How has it changed from, let’s say...high school?
Kurjan: I wouldn’t be a TC girl if I didn’t love comfortable clothing,
cotton and flip-flops… That being said, I also LOVE fine fabrics and
textures like silk and leather. I stand by a statement piece like an
exotic green handbag or a sparkly cuff. My personal style has evolved and
become more defined since my younger years. I live for comfort but need to
dress-up in a gown every once and a while.

Richard Coates, contributing editor

NE: What is something readers may not know about you?
Coates: I published my first article at the age of 14, it was for the
Lansing Star (the alternative paper) and it was an interview with Richie
Blackmore of the band Rainbow. I am in my 34th year of writing and having
articles published and also in my 34th year of coaching youth sports. I
started coaching soccer at the age of 14 when no parent was willing to
coach my younger brother’s team. I have been coaching (football, baseball,
soccer, basketball and softball) ever since
Kristi Kates, Modern Rock columnist, contributing editor

NE: When did you start at the Express and how did you get involved?
Kates: I actually hadn’t written for any other publications yet when I
started writing for Express. I was pretty naive back then, was
transitioning out of summer jobs into “real” jobs, and thought that if I
politely pestered (editor) Bob Downes enough, he’d give me a chance at
writing the Modern Rock column. Never mind that the column was already
being written by someone else! 
Fortunately, Bob must have seen something in my writing (or he just wanted
me to stop emailing him all the time.) I began writing little local
stories first - restaurant reviews and such - and when the Modern Rock
writer left Express, I resumed my pestering of Bob until he gave me a
trial run at writing the column. I don’t think anyone else has written it
since.

NE: What were some of your favorite stories or issues you’ve covered? Why?
Kates: It might be the obvious answer, but I do really like reviewing CDs
and writing music stories. I like discovering new bands, I like talking
with other musicians about what inspires them, and it’s fun to share those
insights with Express readers. I especially enjoy being sent to cover
Lollapalooza for Express every summer, it’s so awesome to hear such an
eclectic lineup of music all in one place.
But I have to say that my very favorite story ever for Express so far was
actually a non-musical one - when I interviewed Adam Savage and Jamie
Hyneman of Discovery Channel’s Mythbusters. Those guys are an absolute
riot, and I’m a fan.

NE: What is something the readers may not know about you?
Kates: In addition to writing and performing my own music, I do film
acting and voiceover through an agency in Manhattan. I spend part of the
year in New York City and on-location, and part of the year Up North on
Lake Michigan so I can visit with family. Thanks to the magic of the
internet, I can work for Express from anywhere.
NE: How would you describe yourself as a musician?
Kates: I’ve spent some time overseas, and I’m very inspired by the
indie-rock sounds of the UK, Scandinavia, and Western Europe, which in my
opinion have a bit Kathy Johnson, regional sales manager

NE: What’s your background at Northern Express?
Johnson: I started at the Express in February of 2005 after being let go
from an organization in TC that was downsizing its sales force. Previous
to this, I did not have any experience in advertising or the newspaper
business. My whole career had been in sales and management, so I guess Bob
& George felt I might work out.
Working at the Express has been interesting and challenging as well as a
whole lot of fun. The best part of my job is meeting and talking with all
the entrepreneur types in our region. I love listening to their stories
and sensing their passion for what they are doing.

NE: What makes advertising in the Express work?
Johnson: 90% of our readers say they look for us every week. A big thank
you to our loyal readers! Entertainment, hard news stories and interesting
happenings in our 13 county distribution area are the backbone of the
paper. We are interested in the local scene and promote the vibe that is
Northern Michigan.

NE: What do you like to do in your free time?
Johnson: Let’s see now - My best day would be walking on an ocean beach
that stretches as far as the eye can see with my husband, Donn Johnson.
When we reach our little cottage at the end of our walk on the beach, we
would serve up ice cold shrimp cocktail that came off the boat just hours
earlier and then watch the sun set on a great day! Oh gosh, I’m
daydreaming again! Besides walking the beach I like to putz around my
house and garden and read Hemingway. I’m really a homebody, but just got
back from vacationing in the Florida Keys where I toured Ernest
Hemingway’s home and snorkeled for the first time!


Randy Sills, distribution manager, regional sales manager

NE: When did you start with the Express and how did you get involved?
Sills: I’ve been here for six years and it’s kind of been an evolution. I
started part-time distributing papers and I’d been in sales for 30 years.
They needed somebody to work on the outlying areas, so I decided to help
out and it just made sense because I was in the stores all the time. It’s
more than just a Traverse City paper. I was in Gaylord, Manistee,
Cheboygan, Cadillac anyway so it just made sense.

NE: Being the sales manager and delivering to such a wide area, how many
miles do you put on your car in a given day?
Sills: In any one day I can put on as many as 300 miles, but you have to
remember I was a rep in the apparel business, so it was nothing to do 800
miles then. This is like running around in my backyard.

NE: What’s your opinion on the current gas prices?
Sills: It’s tough – it’s high, no doubt. It makes it hard and that’s one
of the reasons I got out of the apparel business. I was having to drive
down to places like Paducah, Kentucky, which is 900 miles one way. I have
a Ford Windstar van that I use for loading up papers and that I use for
selling.

NE: What is something your clients may not know about you?
Sills: I’m sure they don’t know that I’m a clinical hypnotist and I have
my masters in applied psychology. I have a long history of being a
therapist. I started out in that field in 1975... I’m old! Well, I guess
we’re all old. (laughs) I was a director of a drug treatment center in
Flint and then director of a Native American program in Los Angeles – the
largest in the country – and when that lost funding back in the late ‘80s,
a friend of mine was in the apparel business and I was ready to do
something else. I was burnt out. You always end up doing something
different than what you studied for years.


Matt Malpass, distribution manager

NE: Tell us a little about your job.
Malpass: My experience has been the less a person says, the less trouble
they cause for themselves.
I drive between Elberta and Harbor Springs 40,000 miles a year. I
currently drive a Nissan Rogue and hope to get two more years out of it,
and retire it at 225,000 miles.

NE: Biggest pet peeve?
Malpass: Competing publications using our racks as distribution sites for
their publications.
Also, the failure of traffic police to enforce traffic laws on a regular
basis. They only make a token effort to enforce traffic regulations during
“campaign” efforts. For example, right now they have decided to have a
“seat belt campaign” for a couple of weeks. There is a tremendous amount
of reckless driving out there -- mainly unsafe passing -- that is
routinely ignored by our local law enforcement.

NE: Since you drive a great deal, what’s your opinion on gas prices?
Malpass: Gas should be seven or eight dollars a gallon in the U.S. to
force the necessary, inevitable economic changes needed in this country to
ensure its survival. Most people -- including myself -- shouldn’t live in
rural areas. Most people shouldn’t even own private cars. Certainly, most
people shouldn’t own 6,000 pound trucks and SUVs. Ninety percent of the
personal trucks I see on the road have only a driver with no passengers,
and a completely empty truck bed.

NE: So do you have any interesting or funny stories from your travels
around the region?
Malpass: Several years ago in the summer, at about noon along the main
street of Cheboygan, I saw a very young couple having vertical sex leaning
on the back of the Subway building.
Also, a few drunks have gotten in my car early Sunday morning while I’m
filling up the boxes we have on Front Street in TC. A couple years ago at
about 4:00 a.m., Sunday, a woman was drunk and completely naked at the
back entrance to Mode’s. Not funny. Just sad.

NE: What kind of changes have you seen since starting at the Express?
Malpass: Outside of Traverse City, especially, more “payday loan”
establishments,  more “Out of Business” signs, and more, more “For Sale”
signs. Generally, take the Grand Traverse Mall, for example, more and more
places are just more “rough on the edges” -- fading paint, more weeds,
more filled-up trash cans, more potholes. Over the whole area, I see a
greater amount of general hostility caused by a poor economy. Several
times I’ve made a paper delivery while a dispute was going on over wages
between an employee and employer.
On the positive side, fewer visitors here in the summer makes it more
pleasant for those here. When I first starting delivering the Express in
2003, during the summer, at all the busy restaurants in the afternoon and
evening, I’d have to muscle my way  through waiting diners in lobbies to 
get to our racks. It hasn’t been that way in the summer now for years. (If
it still were that way, it would take me 70 hours a week to get done.)


 
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