Those free weekly alternative-press newspapers in your city? They suck.
May 9, 2002 9:23 AM   Subscribe

Those free weekly alternative-press newspapers in your city? They suck. On the anniversary of Baltimore's City Paper, a writer celebrates by calling for change. Not just at Baltimore's paper, but at all alt-weeklies. That means you, Austin Chronicle, and Riverfront Times, and...
posted by conquistador (31 comments total)
 
I think mine is pretty cool, actually:

Charleston City Paper.

I mean, how can you not love a paper that reports in this week's police blotter:

Police responded to a call at Burns Lane for a white male with blue shorts and a white T-shirt who had a suspicious package under his shirt and in his shorts. When the police arrived they asked the man what he had in his shorts. The man stated that he had a “bunch of meat in his pants.”

"A bunch of meat in his pants." New MetaFilter tagline, please.
posted by ebarker at 9:31 AM on May 9, 2002


The Riverfront Times used to be a great paper and a much-needed check on the monolithic Post-Dispatch. Then in got bought by New Times, and it went into the crapper at roughly light speed. Their e-in-c went home with a bagfull of cash; their managing ed, a top drawer guy who was not only a fantastic editor but an equally fantastic teacher and mentor for young reporters quit in digust; their good investigative reporters either walked out or were attritioned to larger papers throughout the nation, while they retained the shitty ones who, now, had no one to teach them how to be good reporters.

They still have plenty of good adult personals, but if you're looking for something to read, you're SOL.
posted by UncleFes at 9:35 AM on May 9, 2002


"A bunch of meat in his pants."

I got five bucks that says it was pork.
posted by UncleFes at 9:36 AM on May 9, 2002


Like a lot of things from 1960s, the alternative papers have run their course. The incredible vitality they once represented has petered out. Long ago, they were supported by a growing counterculture. Today, they're supported by ads for thinly veiled prostitution services, and dating services for human zeroes. Somebody pull the plug.
posted by Faze at 9:47 AM on May 9, 2002


Actually, in Los Angeles we have the L. A. Weekly and the New Times, both of which are quite good (particularly the former). They're indispensible for local political and arts coverage, plus excellent food writing from the likes of Jonathan Gold, Meredith Brody, et al.
posted by chuq at 9:54 AM on May 9, 2002


The Chicago Reader is good, but I never read more than a few articles and some syndicated stuff (News of the Weird, Savage Love) I could get on the Web. The maing reason people pick it up is for the music listings and their huge renters' classifieds, which are far superior to either daily's sections. The other alt-weekly, New City, was pretty good in the '90s but has been hit hard by the advertising slump.
posted by me3dia at 10:04 AM on May 9, 2002


Great link. The Austin Chronicle pissed me off with their Pearl Harbor cover this last December, and the only thing I've been able to stomach lately is the local show listings.
Changes in the Chronicle, however, are a good indicator of how Austin's changed since the 90s--that and the number of Beemers and SUVs driving around town.
posted by one.louder.ash! at 10:09 AM on May 9, 2002


Uh, the Village Voice is still amazing to me... and the Washington City Paper was also quite good when I lived there. I always read the free weekly as, especially in NYC, it provides the best local investigative reporting. As the NYTimes goes more and more national is scope this is something that is lacking in the other papers... well that and the ads for transvestite hookers and the "buddy" butt-plug.
posted by n9 at 10:12 AM on May 9, 2002


The Riverfront Times used to be a great paper and a much-needed check on the monolithic Post-Dispatch. Then in got bought by New Times, and it went into the crapper at roughly light speed.

yeah, we recently had a deja vu here over in oakland with the east bay express, which was a quite well written paper with great non-syndicated columns and also had a nice design (think, half-fold -- none of this tabloid nonsense). Then, well, New Times , terrible terrible redesign (tabloid), crapper.
posted by fishfucker at 10:14 AM on May 9, 2002


I used to read both The Stranger cover-to-cover every week. Now I just pick up each for specific columns: stuff by Geov Paarrish in the Weekly and I Love Television in The Stranger. I dunno if the quality of the papers has decline or if I'm more discriminating or if I'm just burned out on 'em or what.
posted by Shadowkeeper at 10:22 AM on May 9, 2002


Whoa, missing link in the above post. That should say "I used to read both the Seattle Weekly and The Stranger cover-to-cover ..."
posted by Shadowkeeper at 10:25 AM on May 9, 2002


I disagree on the Reader. I find its cover stories uniformly boring. It has minimal coverage of local politics. And the format (mini-broadsheet style in four sections) is really, really annoying.

I have lived in St. Louis and DC. The Riverfront Times and the Washington City Paper have tons more personality than the Reader.
posted by Mid at 10:26 AM on May 9, 2002


I agree that the Reader is pretty stodgy. They actually started a spin-off a couple years back called The Reader's Guide which is a stripped-down version with classifieds aimed at the burbs but mostly a classier format for entertainment and more upscale ads. It was derided as yuppified, but seems to be thriving -- I wouldn't be surprised if it's providing almost as much income as the original, at much lower cost. This is the truth -- that the main reason people pick up the Reader is the ads. The content, really, just keeps them picking it up every week. There are good features, such as the essential media column Hot Type, which couldn't run anywhere else. But local coverage otherwise tends toward asking neighborhood organizers what their concerns are, which are invariably shut out of the mainstream political process. Um, it's nice, and probably pushes political buttons for some people, but yawn. People looking for personality pick up New City -- which is picking up those younger readers the Reader is shedding.
posted by dhartung at 10:41 AM on May 9, 2002


Yeah - but the New City looks like it is falling apart. It gets slimmer with each week, and they lost Chis Ware!

I think Chicago would definitley support another alt-weekly. Especially if New City collapses.
posted by Mid at 10:53 AM on May 9, 2002


All of you bitching about the decline of your local alternative paper should check out my hometown's Urban Tulsa.

Worst. Alt-weekly. Ever.
posted by Dirjy at 11:17 AM on May 9, 2002


I've been doing an Weblog that summarizes and comments on alternative weekly stories for two years now. What I've noticed most is how many weeklies are being purchased by chains (New Times, I'm looking at you) and suddenly cities from Miami to Phoenix are forced into the same format. It's similar to what Knight Ridder is doing with its Real Cities Web sites, and stylistically, it's sad. Yet the New Times weeklies often have some of the best-written and interesting articles out there, week after week. Maybe the chain relationship has its benefits after all. Wait, did I say that out loud?

Minnesotans, join me in a moment of silence for the late lamented Twin Cities Reader.
posted by GaelFC at 11:28 AM on May 9, 2002


Indeed, the Reader's Guide is doing well, but I think that's mainly because it's the only alt-weekly targeting the suburbs.

The Reader's cover stories are boring. I never read them. I read Post No Bills, occasionally the media column and some of the movie reviews. The format can be annoying, but at least you don't have to carry the whole thing around just to have the classifieds.

I like New City, but I know first-hand how they treat their stringers, so I'm not surprised that they've got a skeleton crew or that they're dying.

Chicago does support another alt-weekly: The Onion.
posted by me3dia at 11:32 AM on May 9, 2002


Alt-weeklies are where the people who write for college newspapers go to die.

You've got your snotty left-wing take on local news in the front. Then comes a big feature story that drags so it seems longer than War and Peace. After that is the calendar and the hipper-than-thou movie and music reviews. At the back is Tom Tomorrow surrounded by nutty and/or smutty ads. Did I miss anything?
posted by Iberaband at 12:26 PM on May 9, 2002


dirjy: geez. i had that exact comment typed out about the urban tulsa, but didn't post at the last minute.

iberaband: substitute a condensending, moralistic and rambling [no, i mean seriously all over the map] right-wing editorial, followed by the big too-long story with no point, calendar, and movies reviews of the current number one in box office dollars, movie. then life in hell and smutty ads. that's the urban tulsa.

at first i thought the editorials were written by interns from the local uni. then i found out the main guy has been working in print for 20 years. his piece blaming the catholic church child molestation problem on the media was priceless in it's cluelessness.
posted by lescour at 12:52 PM on May 9, 2002


I enjoy reading both the Seattle Weekly and the Stranger, they both occasionally have great cover stories, this one last week from Charles Mudede in the Stranger is one of the best in a while. They're not amazing or anything, but they both represent a pretty definite constituency, the Weekly writes for yuppies and the Stranger for the hipster status quo.
posted by Ty Webb at 1:07 PM on May 9, 2002


In San Francisco the SF Weekly has improved since acquisition by New Times IMO. OTOH my favorite, the East Bay Express lost all of its personality more or less immediately after the more recent New Times takeover. I find the SF Bay Guardian increasingly boring, but that's probably me changing rather than the paper. I've always enjoyed reading "alt.weeklies" even long before I was aware that's what I read. One of the first things I look for when visiting a city.
posted by mlinksva at 2:15 PM on May 9, 2002


Is there still a Boston Phoenix? I remember it from my days at BU.

One would think the WWW has exerted a downward pressure on the free papers. Or perhaps not. They New York Press is sometimes interesting. The Village Voice was forced to go free....
posted by ParisParamus at 2:37 PM on May 9, 2002


mlinksva: Really? I've always thought just the opposite. Before Laurel Wellman left to write boring columns for the Chronicle, "Dog Bites" was probably the only thing worth reading in the SF Weekly. Now it's just a sensationalistic seventy-two page Inside Edition cover story with the kind of diacritical local columnists you find in just about any New Times outlet. The Guardian has definitely slipped a bit lately. But they still have Annalee Newitz writing and editing there. So it's not entirely bad.
posted by ed at 3:36 PM on May 9, 2002


besides being part of the same conglomerate as the la weekly/village voice juggernaut i quite like the oc weekly. it may share movie reviews with it's brethern but from there on out it's all local content. when they do their "best resturant" and "best of orange county" issues they keep me fairly busy with new places to go see for months after they've been published - and i've been living here my entire life.

so my local weekly doesn't suck, thanks.
posted by boogah at 4:02 PM on May 9, 2002


Here in Boston, The Phoenix is pretty good - though I wish it was tabloid size instead of a wimpy half-paper. In South Florida we used to have XS but then it got all corporate and wimpy and as dull as the Miami New Times. LA Weekly is good stuff as well.
posted by owillis at 4:31 PM on May 9, 2002


Shadowkeeper: they both suck suck suck.
posted by y2karl at 4:49 PM on May 9, 2002


Like a lot of things from 1960s, the alternative papers have run their course. The incredible vitality they once represented has petered out.

Yeah, right. It was Kristen Lombardi of the Boston Phoenix who first put together all the pieces of the Father Geoghan child abuse story. And without the Houston Press, who would call out the Houston Chronicle for being so cozily in bed with Enron?

Wake up. Daily newspapers, no matter how good, are also entrenched institutions with powerful business interests in the cities they cover. Alt weeklies -- done right -- are a gift that only a moron would overlook. And yeah, I freelance regularly for a paper in the Tampa-based Creative Loafing chain. The point stands nonetheless.
posted by mediareport at 9:47 PM on May 9, 2002


Alt-weeklies are where the people who write for college newspapers go to die.

Any professional journalist who didn't write for their university paper is one of a rare breed. Clips are what get journalism majors jobs, so fledgling writers in the know write, and often become editors, for their college newspaper.
posted by brittney at 11:26 PM on May 9, 2002


I'll agree the Seattle Weekly and the Stranger both suck suck suck. I remember a piece the Stranger ran last year about Seattle's Pigs on Parade charity project. A more misguided, snide, and elitist critique I cannot imagine. The writer labors under the misconception that the project was supposed to be about the artists, not the charity, and draws all sorts of ridiculously overwrought conclusions from this premise. It's not proper art; it's bad exposure for artists; it devalues the work artists do; it reduces artists to mere decorators; it doesn't pay them what they're worth. Well, duuuuh, you're decorating pigs for charity; what do you want, a spot in the fucking Louvre?

The writer, one Emily Hall, ends her piece with an unkind depiction of a group of perfectly normal middle-aged ladies who had come out to see the pigs make their debut. Blissfully unattuned to postmodern irony, these avatars of the consumer class (i.e. "regular people") failed to understand what the four "anti-corporate-art protesters" at the parade were wanking about. But don't worry, ladies; Ms. Hall gives you her pity!

Almost a year later, that piece still pisses me off. I felt stupider just for having read it, but it was too much like a car wreck to actually stop reading once I'd started.
posted by kindall at 2:06 AM on May 10, 2002


I would add the Eugene Weekly to this group. It should really be titled, What You Should Think. I only read it anymore for the music listings and then not much.
posted by Danf at 7:48 AM on May 13, 2002


You've got your snotty left-wing take on local news in the front. Then comes a big feature story that drags so it seems longer than War and Peace. After that is the calendar and the hipper-than-thou movie and music reviews. At the back is Tom Tomorrow surrounded by nutty and/or smutty ads. Did I miss anything?

Tag. You nailed it. That's it EXACTLY, except Tom Tomorrow runs in the front and we're too conservative to run smutty (ie, bi- or gay) personal ads. Hmm. Wonder if that's a First Amendment issue?

I used to freelance for the one in my town, until the time they tried to pay me with Creed concert tickets. You know, instead of money.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 3:35 PM on May 14, 2002


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