Dear New York Times, Alt-Weeklies Are Decidedly Not "Over"

Categories: Broward News

Last week, when we ran a story about how teenagers are routinely getting tied down in four-point restraints and shot up with mysterious sedatives they call "booty juice" at a taxpayer-funded facility a reader commented: "New Times may do the occasional story about Bieber farting in a jacuzzi, but when they do an investigative story, watch the fuck out. They play no kind of games." I beamed.

I could go on about yesterday's article... "For many people, the alt weekly as a genre is already passé, rendered irrelevant by the rise of the Internet." This argument is sophomoric at best. While it's true that sites like Craigslist drew revenue away from alt-weeklies (and ALL newspapers!), we publish the majority of our stories -- and sell ads -- on said internet. "The internet" is a tool as much as an enemy.

All of this -- "an alt weekly is connected to a city in the way that a website can never be... Alt weeklies also report on the cultural life of a city in a way that neither big daily papers nor websites can... An alt weekly has a staff of paid reporters and editors whose jobs are not only to know the city, but to love it, to hate it, and to be an integral part of it" -- is blather. Any writer can and should do all this; whether they scribble the resulting thoughts on tree bark or a wordpress site or Gene Weingarten's underpants is irrelevant.

All of us in media are up against a wall, because we're all dependent upon advertising. And when companies can get something for free instead of paying for it, they will. So if they can get their message out for free on social media or Craigslist or YouTube, then they have less incentive to pay us to spread their messages for them.

The only way to fight that is produce content that's soooo good or essential that people will pay money for it. All of us in journalism soldier on because we're sadists we're narcissists we never learned how to codewe know that information has value -- the pen is mightier than the sword, knowledge is power, and all that. Added bonuses at an alt-weekly: You can write about whatever your curiosity leads you to, rather than being stuck on a beat; you can tell your editor to his face if you think his idea is dumb, and he will respect the honesty; you have staff meetings over beers.

How information can be monetized, and how exactly the business models will play out, is something that keeps publishers up at night. At the Sacramento News & Review they have a copywriting arm; in places like Burlington, the alt-weekly is so entrenched that longtime clients still rely on it. To suggest that alt-weeklies as a class are weaker than any other type of media outlet is lazy and it's wrong. We are pumping out some of the best journalism in the country.

For a more engaging, well-reported, and fascinating read than yesterday's New York Times piece, please check out Terry McCoy's story about kids who gang-raped their friend and left a trail of misogyny and drug abuse on Facebook. Although I am sorry to to reveal that just this week, the Washington Post snatched McCoy from us to work on the foreign desk. (Terry, say hi to Gene!)

Sorry, we have to get back to speaking truth to Keith Olbermann and exposing people on Palm Beach who are holding parties for candles that cost $595. Maybe the New York Times can manufacture some kind of trend story around that. Seems like your kind of thing.

Send story tips to Deirdra.Funcheon@BrowardPalmBeach.com






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26 comments
rholbert
rholbert

I would agree the writer kind of missed the point of the original article, but it her thoughts on the value of alt weeklies are well taken. Alt weeklies, or independent weeklies, or whatever name we give ourselves, still have bright futures. This is particularly true in places where the dailies have decided it's over. (Looking at you Newhouse!)

Our newspaper, Lagniappe, has seen tremendous growth over the past 115 months, and after 11 years as a bi-weekly will make the jump to weekly in April. I think that is primarily a product of the community seeing that their daily that turned into a thrice-weekly was, in fact, owned by people from somewhere else who don't really care about the community.

We're not alone. I'm sure Gambit in New Orleans is reaping the benefits of the Times-Picayune's fate, and I'd expect other quality alts in Newhouse cities to have a similar experience.

In Mobile, Ala. the alt is growing and it all is just part of the reshuffling of the media deck that was owned for so few for so long. I believe there are brighter days ahead for those in the weekly biz. Clearly the folks in Baltimore do too or they wouldn't have scooped up their rival.

reillynicolas
reillynicolas

upto I saw the check that said $4479 , I have faith that...my... father in law woz like realey bringing in money part time from their computer. . there friend brother has been doing this for only 1 year and as of now cleared the depts on there apartment and bourt a gorgeous BMW 5-series . visit their website W­ o­ r­ k­ s­ 7­ 7­.­ℭ­O­M­

reillynicolas
reillynicolas

upto I saw the check that said $4479 , I have faith that...my... father in law woz like realey bringing in money part time from their computer. . there friend brother has been doing this for only 1 year and as of now cleared the depts on there apartment and bourt a gorgeous BMW 5-series . visit their website W­ o­ r­ k­ s­ 7­ 7­.­ℭ­O­M­

rebapershing
rebapershing

With such glib, poorly written articles of this it is a wonder that any alt weeklies still exist.  The writer may want to reread Mr. Woods' article for a clearer understanding of its point.

satellitegimp
satellitegimp

Like others who have commented, I feel like the writer entirely missed the point of the piece by Mr. Woods. As for the tone of the original piece, personally I prefer Mr. Woods' passion to this writer's smarm no matter the subject..

FatHand
FatHand

I for one cherish the alt-weeklies. This one in particular. Keep up the amazing work and this guy will keep reading. 

bikesandbeards
bikesandbeards

"To suggest that alt-weeklies as a class are weaker than any other type of media outlet is lazy and it's wrong." Yes, it would be, had the suggestion actually been made in the article. The point of the piece was precisely devoted to how and why alternative weekly papers are important to both journalism and to local cultures. The only 'blather' I see at work here is an exclamation point filled rant from someone that is too lazy to engage with substance of the article and otherwise wrong about its most basic premises and assumptions. For example, it is, in fact, highly relevant where a journalist 'scribbles' his or her thoughts when the issue at stake is whether people without regular Internet access are negatively impacted by the loss of a free, local print news publication. 


Overall: yeah...I get it. You have a blog and your beer-drinking-buddy-editor will let you write whatever you want (clearly). Nice work on that.  


But the New York Times is hardly "manufacturing a trend" by publishing an article by a newspaper editor, in the midst of the paper's takeover, at a time of seismic transformation and consolidation in the news industry. It's what most semi-conscious folks would see as a pretty newsworthy story. 


Finally...and I can't believe I actually have to type this sentence...when a writer makes casual reference to the relationship between journalism and the "rise of the Internet," it's safe to assume that said writer is not talking about Craigslist. Just saying.  

joshsiskmvn
joshsiskmvn

Did you read the NYT piece past the first paragraph? It seems like you missed lines like: "But an alt weekly is connected to a city in the way that a website can never be." as well as: "Alt weeklies also report on the cultural life of a city in a way that neither big daily papers nor websites can." and let's not forget: "the archive of an alt weekly is like James Joyce’s “Ulysses” — a document from which a city could be rebuilt." 


I can't see how someone could read Baynard Woods' piece and take what you took from it. It's a love letter to alt weeklies, a statement that they ARE still relevant. Maybe you should read it again.

els12
els12

This sounds like a 100% mis-reading of Baynard Woods' NYT piece, the very point of which is that alt-weeklies are NOT dead, but in fact a vital part of urban life? Did you read past the headline??

ChazStevensGenius
ChazStevensGenius

Deirdra;

You also forgot to mention NT's worldwide scoop on the Festivus pole saga!

funchey1
funchey1 moderator editor

@satellitegimp No offense to Woods. He is a comrade in arms. I get that he was trying to say nice things about alts, although it felt more like a lament and a surrender when what is needed is a call to arms. His piece was not well-organized (writers from alts are somehow more qualified to know/love/hate a city than writers from other outlets???) , but my fury was more at the NYT for opening the window for people to say "Yeah, they're dead," which if you look at the comments on the NYT article is what most people essentially said. It's infuriating to see these columns keep coming, esp from writers who earned their chops in the alts, then get on a bigger (but still sinking!) perch and look down on the alts instead of standing up for them. Next time NYT poses a question abt the industry, I hope it is :Did you read that phenomenal story on [altweekly X's] site?  and p.s. -- if anyone ever "misreads" my work, I only blame myself for not having made a clear enough point.

chuck.strouse
chuck.strouse moderator editor

@bikesandbeards  Maybe you're really just trying to sell your bike or beard on the internet....because if you had read Ms. Funcheon's piece closely, you would have realized that she's mounted a valiant defense of our trade... and that the NYT published a rather confused piece that really doesn't know what it is trying to say. I guess the idea is: Yeah, alt weeklies are good, but maybe not in corporate hands. But who in hell can tell? In any case, Mr. Facial, I hope SOMEBODY buys your bike......   

funchey1
funchey1 moderator editor

@joshsiskmvn  Didn't miss those lines; I quoted them.  Try again.


funchey1
funchey1 moderator editor

@els12  Then why is he so glum? Why isn't he saying, :"Sweet! Now that someone bought us, my paycheck is guaranteed for X amount of time, and I can write that big story!"  I feel kind of bad for him -- It's tough to write an essay on a topic that can go in a few different directions. I get the general feeling of malaise, but my point is that malaise extends to all media. Alt-weeklies are getting picked on all the time -- unfair and totally absurd considering all the great work that's getting published.  His woefulness does nothing to help the genre. 

Truth
Truth

@funchey1 You accidentally reveal the cause or precipitation of your own demise: 


"A typical magazine writer is given several months to conceptualize, report, write, and edit a cover story. Each of our writers completes this cycle every five weeks. In addition, each writer must write a blog every single day and, some weeks, a 1,200-word news story on top of that."


In the story you cite and encourage others to read, there are poorly constructed, unedited sentences and thoughts like:


"With parents in and out of prison and households splintered by domestic violence and drug abuse, the teenagers have spent much of their short lives hopscotching through residences across southern Hollywood, where annual household income hovers between $28,000 and $35,000 and the only way to combat boredom, says one high school friend, "is to get in fights and get fucked up.""


A rambling unfocused sentence like that, while not uncommon in the crunched, overworked world of alts, would not appear in the NYT or any publication near that quality. There are plenty more examples where that came from. It's more the fault of editors than writers, but even the editors don't have the time good journalism often requires. When you hold this up as some of the best work, it only proves you've already surrendered. Alts still do some really great work, but it's rare, and becoming more so every year.

joshsiskmvn
joshsiskmvn

@funchey1 @joshsiskmvn  You quoted them, yet still got the point of his article wrong. Or perhaps were just aiming for a click-bait title and lede? Either way, portraying his piece inaccurately.

chuck.strouse
chuck.strouse moderator editor

@funchey1 @joshsiskmvn Woods is suspicious that corporate ownership. Many alt weeklies, including ours, have flowered under this sort of ownership. Deirdra's points are important and interesting. 

alexfineillos
alexfineillos

@funchey1 He's glum because we lost some amazing talents when the paper was bought.  An art director who's been with the paper for 25 years and many others with over a decade on the job.  There's also a history between the City Paper and the paper that bought them that I might assume you know nothing about.  There is also a strong possibility that the direction of the paper's content might change for the worse due to the new ownership.  Working at your paper might be like an episode of The Newsroom where you can call your boss an asshole and keep your job but in the past week, anyone following what has happened at City Paper knows that in this case that luxury does not apply.  I know you think Baynard's writing was blather but I seriously almost threw up every time you used this article as a way to boast about your own paper.  Name dropping and bragging about awards is not exactly Pulitzer material itself.  Try again.

funchey1
funchey1 moderator editor

@joshsiskmvn @funchey1Yeah an inside-media critique of a critique of the alt-weekly industry is "click-bait" !  LOL

joshsiskmvn
joshsiskmvn

@chuck.strouse @funchey1 @joshsiskmvn  Actually the BCP has been corporate owned for years, since before Woods worked there, so I don't think he is suspicious of that. BSMG bought BCP from Times-Shamrock, a media conglomerate...

funchey1
funchey1 moderator editor

@alexfineillos  and P.S. just looked at your portfolio. Awesome work!  Esp love your Joey Ramone. Hope you are selling prints also! 

funchey1
funchey1 moderator editor

@alexfineillos @funchey1  No one is getting rich here, though I realize VMG may be in a lil better shape than other alts. I feel for ya, As long as you can still get paid for writing/illustrating instead of having to go out an get a job emptying Port-a-potties o whatever, seems like you have a choice: either roll over and let everyone imply that we are dead, or bring attention to the killer work we have been doing. SMH why you think it's bad to brag about our accomplishments. We gotta do more of that, my friend! 

alexfineillos
alexfineillos

@funchey1 @alexfineillos  I'm sure it does.  I usually love working with Voice Media papers because they pay well and give me a lot of artistic freedom.  That's what I'm hoping will be the case here in Baltimore and I guess time will tell.  I just think that Voice Media papers are a rare breed in the world of alt weeklies.  I've worked for more weeklies than I can count as a freelancer and corporate ownership doesn't always equate to good journalism and art.  It all depends on who owns your paper and possibly their willingness to step out of the way and let the editors, creative directors, and writers do what they do best.  Also the willingness to part with enough money to let the paper hire the right people.  I'm happy for you (honestly) that you get to work for a paper that gives you creative freedom to print what you want and financial freedom to hire talent.  To think that a majority of other weeklies have the same luxury is as naive as thinking every American is on a level playing field.  

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