Dear reader, I have a confession to make. I, Georgio Valentino, the incoming editor of Folio Weekly, am not a Jacksonvillian.
There. I said it.
Your humble editor drifted to Northeast Florida only this past spring. Indeed, though a native South Floridian, I’ve spent the last 15 years out of state, even overseas. And—my!—how the place has changed!
While I was gone, Florida surpassed New York to become the third-most populous state in the U.S. It’s also become more diverse and, frankly, more interesting. But long-term systemic problems like overdevelopment, low wages and water (mis)management still hang around our collective neck like an ancient mariner’s albatross.
The First Coast is also changing. As an undergrad at the University of Florida, I visited Jacksonville on weekends. It was just enough time to get a vague feel for the city, and it now feels infinitely more vibrant and welcoming, thanks to its community organizations, local businesses, artists, musicians and makers.
I’m proud to assume editorship of a publication that has documented—and helped cultivate—these changes over the years. Outgoing editor Claire Goforth leaves me a well-oiled machine, a team that instinctively strikes a balance between investigative journalism on the one hand and culture and community on the other.
My own professional experience leans toward the latter. I spent nearly a decade as an arts and culture journalist for the expat press in Brussels, Belgium. When I wasn’t covering contemporary art, I was touring Europe with one experimental rock band or another.
I’ve seen the culture industries from various vantage points, and those experiences have made me sensitive to the double-edged nature of creative labor. In a world where the entire workforce is now being fitted for the aptly named “gig economy,” artists and musicians were the first to experience the freedom and servitude of “being your own boss.” To be honest, I’m still unsure whether we were advanced prototypes or just so many canaries in the coalmine.
Nor have I ever shied away from “hard news” stories. In the run-up to the 2014 European Parliament election, I even found myself on Belgian television, channeling Colbert Report-era Colbert as I interviewed a local MEP candidate. Good times.
My years in Europe put into perspective many elements of American life that I had previously taken for granted. My years in Brussels, the European Union’s chief administrative seat (you’re not supposed to call it the “capital”), gave me a new appreciation for American political norms—at least as they existed before the present administration went to war against them. Though a dedicated believer in the European project, I never cared for the opacity of the E.U. institutions, where the real decisions are made behind closed doors and without any public scrutiny.
Unfortunately (and ironically, given the Republican Party’s chest-pounding patriotism), instead of Europe becoming more American in that sense, America has become more European. The current president wants to rule by fiat and has worked to pre-emptively undermine the institutions (like a free press) that check executive authority.
Journalism is a noble profession. It’s important. And I look forward to working with our writers to uphold Folio Weekly’s tradition of journalistic excellence.