During the National Route 66 Festival in Clinton, Okla., I briefly met Jim Michalec and his business partner, Kristine Ramey, of the Route 66 Advertiser.
I wasn’t as sociable as I could have been because I was half-gassed from working at the Ray’s Motel preservation project. But I had enough lucidity to ask for complementary issues and other information about the publication.
In recent weeks, I finally found time to look at the Route 66 Advertiser. What struck me is that before June 2006, there were no newspapers about Route 66. Barely six months later, there are two — first, the Route 66 Pulse and now, the Advertiser.
The Advertiser’s first issue was in January, the second was in June, and I’ve been told the third is scheduled to come out early next month. It aims to be bi-monthly. The Advertiser’s name is descriptive enough — it writes short stories about Route 66 businesses that buy ads.
Like the Pulse, it’s a free publication, and it’s distributed to its customers along the road. The Pulse’s content is positioned as more as a traditional newspaper, with photographers and correspondents, and more coverage of events along the road. But, like the Advertiser, it takes an advocacy stance in support of Route 66.
The June-July issue of the Advertiser contains feature articles about the Blue Whale of Catoosa, Okla.; Friends of the Mother Road; the Dick Jones Garage; and an interesting Route 66 saga of when Michalec’s car broke down in Arizona. The mini-stories about advertisers contain nuggets of history and good cheer. The only misstep was an ill-advised editorial that supports recertifying U.S. 66.
In my brief meeting with Michalec, there was little doubt he is a Route 66 enthusiast. He likes to meet people, and he has driven the route in each the past four years. The URL of the newspaper’s Web site (still under construction) is telling — Rt66Forever.com. The stories also reflect someone who’s loving every minute of being on the Mother Road.
I’ve held reluctant doubts about the viability of a Route 66 newspaper. With many of the Mother Road’s business owners ekeing out a living, it would be hard for a newspaper to build a sizable advertising base. The second and more daunting hurdle is distribution. The cost of shipping newspapers down the 2,200 miles of Route 66 is immense.
(Disclosure: I turned down a prominent position at the Pulse because of these very concerns.)
However, the Advertiser may have a couple of advantages over the Pulse:
- Its June issue had a greater percentage of ads than the Pulse’s June issue. Remember, that was just the second issue of the Advertiser, while it was the Pulse’s eighth.
- The Advertiser is based in the Route 66 town of Joplin, Mo. It’s doesn’t have to travel as far to meet with businesses and distribute issues. The Pulse is based in New York.
So I’m intrigued to see what Michalec and Ramey have up their sleeves for the August-September issue — and the future. It’s not wise to discount those who are enthusiastic about what they do.