A Farewell To Margaret
By Marcus Gilmer in Miscellaneous on Sep 19, 2008 6:30PM
Today is a historic one in the life of our little ol' site. Today is our last day under the guidance of the benevolent Margaret Lyons, the Editor so nice, she's worked here twice. Way back in '04, when Jen Chung and Jake Dobkin were trying to find someone to start up a version of Gothamist for Chicago, they were pointed to Margaret and Rachelle. Together, these two ladies started the site and watched it take off. Sure, there were growing pains (best not to mention the "Bloody Summer of '06"), but the site was on its way. Margaret left for a spell but was brought back in as Editor a tad over a year ago and since then Chicagoist has emerged as the beautiful butterfly it was destined to be. As Margaret spreads her own wings and prepares to leave us, this is usually the place where someone might quote something from Oh The Places You Will Go, (or the ending of Old Yeller). Tomorrow, Chicagoist falls into the hands of a more blood-thirsty, less gracious, and less karaoke-inclined
dictator editor (yours truly). But tomorrow is still a sunset away and we couldn't let this occasion pass without rounding up some of Margaret's co-writers, past and present, to pay homage to the Lady of Noble Square.
Margaret, we hate to see you leave, but we love to watch you go.
"Margaret was one of the great Gothamist editors-- her wit and organizational excellence will live on for many years at Chicagoist. We wish her godspeed in her return to the bankrupt, gridlocked hellhole that is New York City." - Jake Dobkin, Gothamist Publisher and Co-Founder
"In the beginning there was Rachelle and Margaret and a vision. And a whole bunch of readers leaving nasty comments. We stayed up til all hours of the night, every night, and got up unbelievably early, before our full-time jobs, to work on this new site called Chicagoist. It was our lives. Eventually we added three writers and decided to go out for a staff happy hour, not that Margaret and I weren't already constantly "brainstorming" over pitchers of cheap beer, but this was more official. As luck would have it, we met up at Handlebar for $1 Schlitz and fellow Chicago bloggers, Gapers Block, were there. Of course a throwdown ensued over who loves Chicago more. Four and a half years later I can't believe how far the site has come. Margaret has been such an integral part of it's development. It's an understatement to say she'll be sorely missed." - Rachelle Bowden, Chicagoist Editor-at-Large and Co-Founder
"Margaret is responsible for me getting my start at Chicagoist, and for introducing me to Gold Star. To this day, I am not sure for which act I owe her greater thanks." - Scott Smith, former Chicagoist writer/editor
"Margaret, what can I say? You had me at 'geometry.'" - James Koh, former Chicagoist writer
"My introduction to Margaret was at a Chicagoist happy hour -- she was officially on hiatus from the blog, but she had come back to share a few drinks and a few laughs. I didn't know her at all, but it was obvious she was well-loved. That night, she introduced me to the words "va-jay-jay" and "cray-cray", and I have never been the same since. That, and she can rock a mean Live Band Karaoke song." - Jocelyn Geboy, former Chicagoist writer
"It's no secret Margaret always carried a torch for me. I can understand, obviously, but every time I'd email her a tip for the site or RSVP for an event, she'd beg me to come back. It's good to see her finally moving on." - Matt Wood, former Chicagoist writer
"Thinking back to that very first Chicagoist staff meeting in the summer of 2004: at first subdued, but then unrelenting. Her force of personality and braininess found its way into every corner of our on-line -- and off-line lives." - Mike Fourcher, former Chicagoist writer
"Margaret's writing makes me actually give a damn about TV and random Chicago stories I'd otherwise ignore." - Justin Sondak, former Chicagoist writer
"When I started writing for Chicagoist, there was still a glut of commentary along the lines of "you guys all suck" and "what kind of horrible writing is this" and other such internet assholery. Under the Reign of Lyons, the fact that I've seen Chicagoist push past a lot of that is a testament to how Ms. Lyons questions, queries, edits, rewrites, rethinks, recodes, and pushes all of us to create a better product. I hope we can keep up the level that Margaret has tried so hard (and succeeded) to force us toward, kicking and screaming on some of our parts, for all of our sakes. Good luck out there, Lyons!" - Karl Klockars, current Chicagoist writer
"The day Margaret decided to take a chance on a scamp from the mean rough and tumble streets and give him unfettered access on the weekends to sully the Chicagoist name was the proudest day of my life. Go get 'em, tiger!" - Prescott Carlson, current Chicagoist writer
"Our time was too short. You were a wonderful editor, cheerleader, and friend, and Chicagoist is great because of what you have done. The site will miss you, but there will always be a part of you here. Goodbye, goodbye, goodbye." - Amy Mikel, current Chicagoist A&E writer
"It was Margaret who came up with the idea for Queue Tips. Not only the idea, but the title too. In fact under her tutelage we've come up with sharper, wittier headlines. Margaret's philosophy has always been, 'How can we say this better in fewer words?' That compulsive pruning has really made me a better writer!" - Rob Christopher, current Chicagoist Film writer
"Halfway through my first happy hour with Margaret, I realized I was listening to every word she said like an attentive kindergartener. Why? I didn't know exactly, but I later figured out it's because she's this awesome combination of brainy and feisty, and that gives her tremendous presence. As I got to know her better I learned that in addition to her quick wit, she's warm and fuzzy, and shares my love of TV. Chicagoist will miss her charm and talent, and I'll miss our 'Oh my God I LOVED the show Sisters!' moments. Bon voyage, Margaret, and good luck!" - Ali Trachta, current Chicagoist A&E writer
"A night with Margaret: my cheeks and sides ache from laughing, my stomach is happy from good food, my head swims from good drinks, and my pop culture IQ went up 20 points...along with my Math IQ. And my political IQ. In fact, I'm smarter just for knowing you. I will miss you, Margaret." - L. Stolpman, current Chicagoist Food & Drink writer
"1. She is charming and smart
2. She has wonderful hair
3. She might have invented the term, "cryporn," which is a brilliant word
4. She is moving away for a whole slew of honorable reasons that make me respect her a lot
5. She shouldn't leave us (oh noes -- cryporn!)" - Lauri Apple, current Chicagoist A&E writer
"Margaret is the dangerous trifecta of: talented, intelligent, and humorous. Add on her quirkiness, warmth and enthusiasm and she is easily one of the most wonderful people you will ever meet. I will miss nerding-out with you, discussing everything from TV pilots to weather patterns to childhood reading lists. Thank you for personally inspiring me and for pushing everyone to take the risks that will make us better writers. Happy Village will be a little sad village until you come back to visit. :)" - Jacy Wojcik, current Chicagoist writer
"It's been amazing how we've grown this thing in the past 4+ years. Chicago's loss is the Big Apple's gain... best of luck in NYC. " - Benjy Lipsman, current Chicagoist Sports writer
"The best thing about Margaret is that she's not only pushed me to be a better writer, but she's also been a pretty good friend. She's the only person to look me in the eye, over a beer, and tell me I'm a miserable person and I need to knock it off. I'm going to miss hanging out in front of the guard shack at the Dirksen Courthouse and then some sort of joke about how it was both fun and creepy what with the guards, hobos, and all the other weirdos that populate Jackson" - Kevin Robinson, current Chicagoist Politics writer
"When we were told a year ago that Margaret was being named as editor, one of my first decisions as The Decider was to saddle her with a nickname. I ended up saddling her with 'Chicagoist Prodigal,' to reflect her return to the fold. In the year that's followed, I've discovered that Margaret has a dislike for crowds. 'Course, that never stopped her from squeezing into an American Legion hall's basement bar packed nut-to-butt tight with her friends to sing karaoke, or attending an Oprah taping at Millennium Park. Typical woman: Oprah calls, she runs.
The Ralph Wiggum, 'It tastes like burning!' face she made the first time I poured her a neat single malt is one of the pleasant memories that'll feed me with false hope when I reach my soft chewy center of Hell. Margaret was the one who suggested the 'One Great Sandwich' series. 'We have 26 staffers,' she said at the time. 'That's two per person for the whole year. That's doable!' Yet Margaret could never find the time to review a sandwich herself; after Vella Cafe stopped serving their bacon sandwich, she stopped trying.
She's never given me an opinion of a restaurant that hasn't been informed by either a Chicagoist staffer or Time Out Chicago's Heather Shouse. At least we're in good company. She'll always manage to work into general conversation her love of baseball, bacon, television, math and her blood ties to film critic Jeffrey Lyons.
These are some the things I'm going to miss about getting to know Margaret in the past year. What I'm going to miss most is the energy she brings to Chicagoist. More than her writing talent, more than her nose for what stories can drive traffic to the site, it's her passion that reinvigorated Chicagoist at a time when it was needed. Her passion for the site from the moment she came back provided new energy for the longtime staffers who stayed and allowed for us to seamlessly mesh with the new blood. The camaraderie between this staff is probably the tightest I've seen in years. Most of all, she's made Jim and me better editors in the process.
In a week, she'll be back in New York, among family and other friends. The site must go on. Unlike a year ago, the position Chicagoist in which now finds itself isn't as precarious. Margaret leaves behind a smooth operation and a basement full of hipsters waiting for Rory Lake to call 'em to the mic.
Can I have my coffee now? I need to give Marcus a degrading nickname." - Chuck Sudo, current Chicagoist Food & Drink Editor
"My fondest memory of Margaret was when she was trying to feed that kitten into an ATM machine only to be interrupted by a little old lady who she then shot, leading us both to flee on foot from police chasing us in both cruisers and helicopters. We hid in her office, starkly illuminated by a reflected searchlight that wasn't actually focused on us, and she turned the gun on me and made me sing show tunes and dissect the meaning of songs by both Huey Lewis and the News and Genesis. That was an awesome night. I'm really going to miss her shenanigans." - Tankboy, current Chicagoist A&E Editor
Last, but not least, I'd like to say this about the job Margaret has done here. Most people don't realize the hard work that goes into the site, something I've learned first-hand over the last month preparing for her departure. She handles somewhere in the neighborhood of at least ten posts a day, edits many more, coordinates the site, handles the (likewise outstanding) editorial crew (Chuck and Tankboy), finds time for a media appearance here and there, and somehow does it with grace, dignity, and wit. Good Lord, my hair is graying just thinking about it. Under her watch, Chicagoist has not only found it's rythym, but it's exploded: since she took over (again) a year ago, traffic has nearly double. This is no mean feat. It's a testament to the general talent on the site (truly one of the most gifted staffs around) but also to Margaret's tenacity and dedication. Day in and day out, even when she was sick or travelling, Margaret put in the time to make this site great. When she departs at the end of the day, I'll be left with big shoes to fill. If I can do half the job Margaret did in making this site great, I'll be happy. Best of luck in the N-Y-C, Lyoness. Congratulations on an amazing run here at Chicagoist and making it into the success it is today. Now turn in your badge and gun and get a move on into that sunset.