As the Whirl turns

My debut article for the Guardian is on the 77-year-old St. Louis crime tabloid the St. Louis Evening Whirl:

“Pow. Pow. Pow. Pow. Pow. That’s how three street goons came at a dude as he said goodbye to his lovely wife on the North Side last week. If that’s too much for you, pick up the Times and read the theatre reviews.”

So begins a typical article from the Evening Whirl, St Louis’s weekly print tabloid which bills itself as “an uninterrupted crime-fighting publication since 1938”. As the world’s attention fell on Ferguson last fall, the Whirl, resolutely non-digital, flew under the radar. But the paper is a St Louis institution: a 77-year-old, African American-run media enterprise that speaks to the complicated questions of race, crime and policing dogging the region today.

For those 77 years, the Evening Whirl has covered the underworld of St Louis in lurid language, cataloging crimes under headlines like “Loon Chucks Shiv at 5-0” and “Bungling Bandit Bagged and Booked”. Regular features include a column called Where Not To Be, which provides a helpful map of where readers are most likely to be murdered, and Behind the Bars, an advice column from a prisoner named Jus Bleezy, who in the latest issue calls upon readers not to flush their lives “down the drain for a chain and some street fame”.

Many articles start with a question: “WHY did a stone-cold gunslinger end a South Side squabble with slugs?” asks one query. “WHO is the con man from the womb who can steal the tighty off your whities that is being sought by North Patrol?” asks another. There are no bylines, giving it the feel of omniscient narration from an alternatively bemused and outraged voice.

Read the whole thing, “Inside St. Louis’s Lurid Crime Tabloid”, at the Guardian

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