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October 7, 2012 12:56 PM   Subscribe

In the wake of the venerable Boston Phoenix changing to a glossy magazine format and rebranding itself as simply The Phoenix (as well as the ongoing turmoil at the Village Voice), Salon's Will Doig writes the obituary for the age of the alt-weeklies. The Phoenix responds.
posted by Horace Rumpole (32 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

 
Too angry; couldn't read.
posted by bq at 12:57 PM on October 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


It's not just alt-weeklies. Con-weeklies (like Greensboro's Rhinoceros Times) are being squeezed too.
posted by infinitewindow at 1:04 PM on October 7, 2012


There's already a periodical called The Phoenix.
posted by Grangousier at 1:07 PM on October 7, 2012


I guess if you swear enough, you prove you're still "alternative"....
posted by HuronBob at 1:08 PM on October 7, 2012 [3 favorites]


I quit my full-time job at a VVM-owned weekly about six or seven years ago. At the time, I privately thought that I was getting out just before the collapse. I was wrong, and although there's been downsizing most of my old friends are still working in the industry. But the end can't be held off forever. There's simply too many things an alt-weekly does that the Internet does better.
posted by Bookhouse at 1:09 PM on October 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


When the rebuttal (The Phoenix Responds) includes phrases such as "suck-ass" and "I shit you not" in the first paragraph as well as making that paragraph a complete "ad hominem" put-down of the people making the argument I immediately think two things:

1. That there is something to Salon's allegations

2. That The Phoenix is desperately trying to present itself as still being "edgy"
posted by Podkayne of Pasadena at 1:10 PM on October 7, 2012 [3 favorites]


I had already disliked Stuff when I learned that the magazine and the paper would merge. The politics of the Phoenix didn't match the glossy's glitz-worship. Having seen the new publication, I can only call the marriage of the two unholy.

Aside from that, the rebuttal, while correctly refuting the breathless Salon piece, elided some of the problems of the new model. The paper had all the critics mentioned in the rebuttal before it merged with Stuff. It had a great arts section. Stuff didn't. I don't see what the one adds to the other.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 1:18 PM on October 7, 2012


Personally, as a Boston person and an occasional reader of the Phoenix, I could care less if it folded. I've never read worse writing anywhere. Good riddance.
posted by Lipstick Thespian at 1:22 PM on October 7, 2012


There are no winners here, that's for sure.
posted by feloniousmonk at 1:26 PM on October 7, 2012


I saw the glossy new Phoenix the other day and thought, "They shut down FNX for this?"
posted by robocop is bleeding at 1:28 PM on October 7, 2012 [4 favorites]


Frankly, I didn’t realize Salon was still a thing – didn’t they change their name to Slate or something? -- but since Faraone just called me up

It's okay with me if you have some problem with em dashes. But really, make up your mind.
posted by cribcage at 1:34 PM on October 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


There's simply too many things an alt-weekly does that the Internet does better.

Here in the Spokane area, our alt-weekly does outstanding in-depty investigative journalism by people who are paid to do that kind of work. I'm not sure, exactly, how the Internet can now or ever will do that better.
posted by hippybear at 1:34 PM on October 7, 2012 [3 favorites]


Too angry; couldn't read.

"Continue Reading" button didn't work, couldn't read.
posted by charlie don't surf at 1:40 PM on October 7, 2012 [3 favorites]


The Phoenix publishes in a number of other New England cities as well (including here in Portland, ME). I wonder if we're also getting a glossy, or if our market will stay a tabloid.
posted by anastasiav at 1:41 PM on October 7, 2012


There's simply too many things an alt-weekly does that the Internet does better.

Here in the Spokane area, our alt-weekly does outstanding in-depty investigative journalism by people who are paid to do that kind of work. I'm not sure, exactly, how the Internet can now or ever will do that better.


They won't. Which is why I said "too many things" and not "everything."
posted by Bookhouse at 2:04 PM on October 7, 2012


Writing about the death of alt-weeklies in 2012? When's their obit for gonzo journalism coming out? Fresh.
posted by wam at 2:38 PM on October 7, 2012


I noticed the change to the glossy format last week. Since I read some political columnists from the Phoenix online, and they're still going, I didn't think that much of the makeover.

The Phoenix has tended to have really nice coverage of the local classical music, theatre, and dance scenes, which coverage of course has gotten scarcer at the Globe. I'm hoping that won't change.
posted by Currer Belfry at 2:54 PM on October 7, 2012


Salon writing about the death of any kind of alt-journalism reminds me of that joke about out-running a tiger; maybe they think if they throw sand in the competition's face, they can just be faster than them.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 2:57 PM on October 7, 2012


My first full-time job after undergrad was with the Creative Loafing-owned alternative weekly I'd been freelancing for while a student. My first week there, they sold the paper to our competitor and laid off the entire editorial staff. That was ten years ago; earlier this year CL sold off the last of its papers and ceased to exist. Frankly, I can't believe it took them that long to go belly-up. All of the economic forces that devastated the daily newspaper industry were felt twice as hard at alt-weeklies, which didn't have the economies of scale to cope with them.

There's still a lot of good work being done at alt-weeklies around the country, but most of the arts and culture reporting has migrated to online-only venues while the investigative reporters are finding new vehicles for their work, like Pro Publica. That's for those that stay in the industry, of course; almost all of my erstwhile coworkers left journalism long ago.
posted by Rangeboy at 3:07 PM on October 7, 2012


There's simply too many things an alt-weekly does that the Internet does better.

Here in the Spokane area, our alt-weekly does outstanding in-depty investigative journalism by people who are paid to do that kind of work. I'm not sure, exactly, how the Internet can now or ever will do that better.


Ditto for Portland,OR's Willamette Week for being the newspaper that actually covers and muckrakes the politics of this city.

The Mercury is full of bad writing and more interested in lifestyle/music and The Oregonian is a hunk of junk mouthpiece of buisness.
posted by wcfields at 3:12 PM on October 7, 2012 [3 favorites]


The Boston Phoenix was the first publication to pay me for my writing. Back in the 90s, alt-weeklies were the way a complete unknown could get writing published, edited by professionals, and seen by a pretty broad audience. How do starting-out freelancers do that now? Just blog until somebody notices?
posted by escabeche at 3:20 PM on October 7, 2012


That logo is awful and they should feel bad as a result of this.
posted by Senor Cardgage at 3:21 PM on October 7, 2012


That logo is awful and they should feel bad as a result of this.

You should send them a new logo that you designed! They'll love it.
posted by wam at 3:24 PM on October 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


Turmoil at the Village Voice saddens me -- as a teenager far from any big city, it was one of my lifelines growing up: My dad introduced me to it, and my local independent bookstore, bless their kind souls, had a few copies every week. Of course, now we have the Internets to teach the kids in District Twelve that they're Not The Only Ones Who Think That.
posted by ariel_caliban at 3:33 PM on October 7, 2012


So here's the deal: I can relate intellectually to the whole "alt-weeklies are dying" thing, because as a category they are — but since I [grew up in / still spend significant time in] Seattle, emotionally alt-weeklies seem like they're going strong. Is The Stranger really the only decent alt-weekly in America? Is this what I'm observing?
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 3:41 PM on October 7, 2012


I know most big cities have a Reader/Weekly type of alt-weekly, but only in Boston have I seen ones like Stuff and The Improper Bostonian, which seem to be pitched more at older money, and care less about art, music, and politics, and more about who was seen with whom, and where. Is it just my limited experience, or are these Boston-specific?
posted by benito.strauss at 3:42 PM on October 7, 2012


Personally, as a Boston person and an occasional reader of the Phoenix, I could care less if it folded. I've never read worse writing anywhere. Good riddance.
posted by Lipstick Thespian


Pick up Barstool Sports sometime. But first make sure you've got some Purell handy.
posted by benito.strauss at 3:44 PM on October 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


Is it just my limited experience, or are these Boston-specific?

St. Louis has something called The Ladue News, which is sort of the same thing, so not Boston-specific.
posted by Elementary Penguin at 3:54 PM on October 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


I was an intern at the Phoenix back in 1991-ish, in the editorial department. It was the most directionless internship ever, due to the intern wrangler coming down with pneumonia and a collapsed lung. I'd wander around asking if anyone needed help with anything, and then go open and sort their mail for hours, or file an impossible number of loose stock and promo photos into a bank of file cabinets. Occasionally, a kind writer would give me a research project. It only lasted a few months before I realized, just by observing the people I worked around and how stressed they all were all the time, that I didn't want to work as a journalist, ever.

Upside: getting galleys and preview copies of lots of books before they were released to the public; they got such a shitton of them, anyone was allowed to take any of them home.

Downside: the music editors always took all the good demo tapes.
posted by not_on_display at 3:57 PM on October 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


It's been more than a decade since Black Press eviscerated Monday Magazine, the alt weekly of my home town of Victoria, BC, taking with it any kind of "alternative" long-form journalism about the region.

On the other hand, I'm not entirely sad to see it go, because many of the writers and editors wrote according to a political agenda, as opposed to a values-based perspective, so the paper was (and still is) axe-grindy towards certain politicians (ad hominem attacks don't work well in smaller towns) and reflexively anti-establishment.

Has the Internet picked up the slack? For a while there were a number of blogs that covered local affairs, but with the rise of Twitter a lot of blogging stopped. There is of course TheTyee.com, but once again its worldview is not values-based, so a lot of their writing is self-consciously Lefty and axe-grindy.
posted by KokuRyu at 7:03 PM on October 7, 2012


I have always enjoyed the Phoenix's main competitor the Weekly Dig (which later changed kinda to just The Dig or DigBoston?). However, that paper is shrinking rapidly and the goddamn website is unnavigable. I think one of the benefits of paper publications is that they are usually consistently laid out and it's easy to find which section you want. Web sites rarely have that clear a design, and content shuffles and moves down the page as new stories break. That makes it needlessly difficult to find an earlier story to show someone, and often the site search is not sortable by date.

Of course it goes without saying that the web does a lot of things better when it comes to ephemera like news. But there are huge form and interface issues which just haven't been addressed yet. The entire medium is in a long frustrating beta.
posted by overeducated_alligator at 10:51 PM on October 7, 2012


I didn't leave alt weekly journalism, I was forced out by the purge a few years ago where they got rid of all the local freelancers and replaced us with syndicated stuff.

As pissed off as I was to have my career killed overnight, I was also furious as a longtime fan of alt weeklies. All of a sudden, the film, art, theater and music critics I'd literally grown up reading were just gone. This was around the same time they axed their comics pages, so no more Lynda Barry, Kaz or Tony Millionaire. The cover stories got shorter, and shittier. They cut the club listings and movie showtimes by about 90%. The local coverage was reduced/eliminated, replaced by little blurbs written by somebody on another coast. It was like they were trying as hard as they could to eliminate every single reason why anybody would read their damn paper.

And then there were the horror stories. I heard rumors of staffers being terribly overworked, absolutely crucial tasks being handed off to interns, mafia-like tactics being employed to crush rival papers...

One of the Voice papers has a newish office, not far from where I live. I flip them off, every time I drive by. Every single time.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 1:19 AM on October 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


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