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20 memorable cover stories


1. We go weekly (Sept. 4 1984)

We entered a new world: the weekly one. Before this issue, we were monthly (if you look closely at our current cover design, you'll see that the "Weekly" in Style Weekly still appears as a bit of an afterthought). Featured on the first weekly cover was a drawing of Gen. Robert E. Lee, promoting an essay on Richmond by Garrett Epps.

2. First "You're Very Richmond If …" (1984 )

The contest became an annual rite for us and for readers. We retired it just last year. A lot of people still miss it.

3. First Richmonder of the Year (January 1985)

We kicked off a tradition with our first Richmonder of the Year: L. Douglas Wilder (see list No. 16 for a full list of winners). Who will be this year's? You'll have to wait till January.

4. Satanism (Jan. 19, 1988)

This story got a lot of attention, particularly its claim that up to 5 percent of Richmonders are practicing devil-worshipers (see also this issue's "12 Things We Can Never Take Back"). People magazine came to town to investigate, and the General Assembly approved a study of Satanism. Late in the article, we mentioned that its primary source has been diagnosed with mental illness. But to our credit, we also quoted lots of apparently reasonable people who saw the devil all around us.

5. "Boys Will Be Girls" (May 15, 1990)

We blew a lot of people's minds with this article on Richmond's transvestite hookers. Outraged (former) readers rained letters of protest on us. We protested that we were simply presenting a true picture of something real.

6. "Was Justice Served?" (Sept. 19, 1995)

It's not often a newspaper article helps get someone out of prison. This story of Virginia Commonwealth University student Sam Bullock did just that. Bullock was released on parole early. He credits the magazine for its investigation of the aggravated assault he was accused of committing and the unanswered questions about the trial that ensued (Style won a Best-in-Show award from the state press association for it). But in our view, his indomitable mother, Sheron Shaw, played a more vital role.

7. "Fear Itself" (April 15, 1997)

As Richmond reeled from a series of public shootings and murders, local residents' fear of random violence was increasing. Style devoted much of its issue to exploring the fear of crime, the ways the city has changed to become more fearful and the ways we could try to overcome it. The issue -- and Style's coverage of crime throughout the year -- won a first-place award from the Virginia Press Association.

8. "Scandal!" (Oct. 7, 1997)

Our look at the best (or worst) Richmond scandals of all time got some people worked up because of its contents, but even more because of its cover -- a parody of the Weekly World News. "Are you changing formats?" one reader wondered in a letter. "I certainly hope not!"

9. "Word for Word" (Oct. 28, 1997)

In the first of our much-imitated double interviews of candidates, we asked which Winnie-the-Pooh character gubernatorial hopefuls Lt. Gov. Donald Beyer and Attorney General Jim Gilmore felt they most resembled (Tigger, for both) and what core functions of government shouldn't be privatized (Beyer: education; Gilmore: no clear answer). The interview turned out to be even more telling of their personalities. Gilmore was wordy, legalistic and occasionally combative, while Beyer was flippant, trenchant and funny.

10. "Working High" (April 14, 1998)

One out of 12 workers is addicted to drugs, and those employees cling to their jobs, sometimes after losing family and home. This story showed, in riveting detail, just how the person next to you could be a crack addict -- no matter how pleasant your office may be

11. "Who's the Boss?" (April 28, 1998)

In this election issue, we took a look at the state of leadership in the capital. Few people vote in local elections and even fewer can name the mayor or city manager; so does Richmond have a leadership vacuum? Some said yes. More than four years later, you can be the judge.

12. "Movers and Shapers: 100 Influential Richmonders of the Century" (May 11, 1999)

This landmark issue profiled and celebrated five score Richmonders who made a big difference. It was a marvel of research, insight and hard work, and culminated in an exhibit at the Valentine Museum.

13. "The Pound and The Fury" (June 8, 1999)

A series of news articles on abuses at the city animal shelter culminated in this cover story by Janet Giampietro. These stories of animal welfare generated the most mail of any of our cover stories, brought changes to the pound and inspired outrage throughout the region.

14. "What's the Frequency, Richmond?" (July 20, 1999)

Another hot-button subject: radio. Readers responded in droves with angry letters supporting our thesis that Richmond's radio is, at most, mediocre.

15. The Vampire (Oct. 28, 1999)

OK, so it was fictional (see "12 Things We Can't Take Back," this issue). It was a vampire! But you can't say it wasn't well-done. From the cover "portrait" to the creepy tone to the straight-faced description of elegant, informative 200-year-old vampire "William Black," Style staffers Janet Giampietro and Richard Foster nailed the essence of a good Halloween tale.

16. "Tear Down City Hall!" (Nov. 16, 1999)

From its eye-catching cover image of a wrecking ball swinging toward City Hall to its thought-provoking to-do list, this essay by Style Weekly's architecture critic, Edwin Slipek Jr., detailed his ideas for a better downtown Richmond

17. "Our Big Fat Millennium Issue" (Dec. 21, 1999)

We presented what might have been the end of the world in a cheerful light, including a wish list of 20 things we'd like to bring along into the next century and 20 things we'd like to leave behind. As a bonus, we provided Richmond's only Apocalypse Survival Guide: how to communicate, pray, mate and date, eat your family, amuse yourself, loot and more in the new millennium. Of course, on Jan. 1, 2000, it all seemed a bit silly. But that was the point.

18. "Bloodline" (March 27 & April 3, 2001)

The true story of the murderous Friends, the Richmond family of "truck pirates." The twisted tale of brothers Eugene, Travis and Philip Friend, and their mother, Vallia -- and the other family members and people unlucky enough to meet them -- was told in stunning detail in a two-part feature article by Style's Jason Roop.

19. "9/11" (Sept. 18, 2001)

In the three days after the attacks, Style put together a picture of a city in shock. We wanted to document the time, but struggled with how to do it. In the end, we turned to our fellow Richmonders. Our staff photographers -- Scott Elmquist, Chad Hunt and Stephen Salpukas -- presented moving portraits of people who live in and around Richmond, while our writers interviewed them and presented their feelings in their own words. It may be the most moving piece Style has run. On Sept. 11, 2002, the Library of Virginia presented an exhibit of the portraits as part of its commemoration. The issue also won Style a first-place award from the Virginia Press Association.

20. "Put Me on the Cover" (Aug. 14, 2002)

The first in what we plan to make an annual contest (aka "It's All About Me") asked readers to sell themselves. Eddie Maz, an electrician for the city of Richmond, was the featured winner. The contest gained wide coverage in local media and made an instant celebrity out of Maz, a guy who has turned his life around. Even better, it was fun. Let's hear it for next year's winner -- whoever that may be. S