"Are Alt Weeklies Over?" Hell no! We're needed now more than ever.

The New York Times

The New York Times yesterday ran an insightful and widely circulated op-ed from a fellow alt-weekly editor, Baynard Woods of Baltimore City Paper, that emphasized the important role that a staff of full-time alt-weekly journalists play in urban life, a niche that neither big daily papers nor online-only outlets can replicate.

“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, cajoling, ridiculing, praising and skewering city officials, artists and entrepreneurs alike, while giving voices to the ‘city folk,’” Woods wrote after ruing the economic forces that have hobbled our profession and given rise to the article’s headline: “Are Alt Weeklies Over?”

As someone who has worked for four alt-weeklies in California after starting my career at daily newspapers, I can attest to the unique and valuable role that they played in each of those cities: San Luis Obispo, Monterey, Sacramento, and San Francisco. Eschewing the tired and unattainable goal of “objective journalism,” the alt-weeklies help provide a bottom-up framing of local issues and serve as a check on the dominant economic and political forces.

When I made the transition from dailies to alt-weeklies in 1995, I felt like a whole new world had been opened up for me, a feeling that I’ve heard expressed by many others in my business. Daily newspaper writers generally hew to the orthodoxy of their local Chamber of Commerce in economic coverage, while political news tends to split the difference between the two major political parties.

But in a dynamic world with major long-term problems that aren’t being addressed in a serious way — from global warming and environmental degradation to extreme wealth disparities and lack of investment in critical public infrastructure — sometimes the Chamber, the Democrats, and the Republicans are all wrong.

Saying so often falls to the alt-weekly writers and editors who can speak with a clear and true voice, and who can back up their perspective with years of diligent reporting to support it. When the Guardian says PG&E corrupts our political system, that’s not a statement of opinion, but a conclusion backed up by dozens of well-reported articles going back decades. In this instantaneous yet forgetful society we’re creating, that kind of institutional knowledge is invaluable.

That’s especially true when it comes to city life and the struggles we cover all day, every day, something that writers who strive for clicks from readers around the world can’t provide. Locally based reporters working local beats with adequate resources is essential to civic accountability.  

For example, it’s easy for us to see how the current displacement crisis will change San Francisco in unacceptable ways, and to see the echoes of previous political moments — the freeway revolts of the ‘60s, the anti-Manhattanization struggles of the ‘70s, resistance to trickle down economics in the ‘80s, warnings about the last dot-com economic cleansing in the ‘90s — in this current political moment. So we amplify the many voices crying out for reform and we’re willing to call our untrustworthy politicians and business leaders on their bullshit. We’re not afraid to call the liars “liars.”

“Alt weeklies can be harsh in their criticism, whether it’s aimed at a blowhard politician or an overrated artist. Some people say we’re too eager to charge people with selling out, with trafficking in an insular cultural elitism. But alt weeklies don’t simply delight in being mean; they are harsh because they care about the city and what goes on in it,” Woods wrote.

We at the Guardian love San Francisco, and we’re going to keep fighting for its soul — and the panopoly of inspired and inspiring people who feed that soul — with everything we’ve got, and neither the people who fund our paychecks nor those who populate our blogs are going to deter us from that mission.   


Posted by Guest on Mar. 05, 2014 @ 5:44 pm

is servile to the progressive agenda and progressive politicians.

Nothing to see here.

The SFWeekly is actually a good read often times.

The bay Guardians claim of being a check on city government is like FOX news claiming to be a check on Bush 2.

Posted by guest on Mar. 05, 2014 @ 7:05 pm

Now that you can go elsewhere to get ads for whores, much of the point to alt-weeklies has been lost...

Posted by racer さ on Mar. 06, 2014 @ 5:54 am

"and neither the people who fund our paychecks nor those who populate our blogs are going to deter us from that mission."

Sounds like Steven has been having issues with Examiner management...

Posted by racer さ on Mar. 06, 2014 @ 5:55 am

dismisses anyone who doesn't buy what he is selling as "trolls".

Posted by Guest on Mar. 06, 2014 @ 6:45 am

We need the SFBG School of Journalism School more than ever. I mean, more than never. Sorry -- more than always.

Posted by Chromefields on Mar. 06, 2014 @ 7:01 am

Hey Chromefields, your sister wants her giz-goggles back.

She says buy your own pair ya cheap bastard.

Posted by Sargeant Spooge on Mar. 06, 2014 @ 4:25 pm
Posted by Guest on Mar. 06, 2014 @ 7:33 am

Steven, such solipsism is indicative of the disconnect.

Just because you think that you are needed does not mean that other people need you.

Just because activists say they are working for a good cause does not mean that the work that they do advances that cause.

Calling people on their misplaced insistence upon continuing down the road of irrelevance is not the same thing as disagreeing with their intentions.

Other people need you when you make yourself relevant to them.

Sink or swim, adapt or die off.

Posted by marcos on Mar. 06, 2014 @ 7:58 am
Posted by Guest on Mar. 06, 2014 @ 8:20 am

It is clear what people want, but what is not clear is that nobody is really prioritizing what people want, they are prioritizing what they want and raging when nobody validates that.

Posted by marcos on Mar. 06, 2014 @ 8:23 am

conclude that they are misrepresenting what people want.

How would you know what most people want, aside from opinion polls and election results? You move in biased circles and so have a very slanted view of what people want.

If you really want to know what people want, shut up and listen.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 06, 2014 @ 8:36 am

People want the same thing the world over, decent housing, education for their kids, health care, fulfilling work that they can get to without too much burden and some free time to enjoy their lives.

Posted by marcos on Mar. 06, 2014 @ 8:58 am

The issue is how to get there and that is what people disagree about. Your ideas for achieving that are not popular with the voters, even in SF.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 06, 2014 @ 9:10 am

Given that the corrupt elites are not providing these needs, then there are clear areas of political opportunity to exploit. The fact that the Guardian exclusively focuses on meeting the needs of activists who themselves focus on the priorities of activists and the elites cover their own interests, nobody is really speaking for San Franciscans whose basic needs are not being met.

Posted by marcos on Mar. 07, 2014 @ 8:44 am

There is zero political support among the voters for policies other than what are being pursued. While those who stick to their rigid ideologies and refuse to compromise are left in the political wilnerness, like you.

You can believe what you want, but you have no support, no votes and no money. Game over.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 07, 2014 @ 8:57 am

Who gets to define what is a "good cause"? Over the weekend some asshole "activist" threw a brick through Vanguard's office in the Mission. They said they were doing it for a "good cause". I call it bullshit. So who's right?

Posted by Guest on Mar. 06, 2014 @ 6:03 pm

and so have nothing else to resort to than a meaningless gesture done in secret.

So it's a good thing because it means the good guys are winning.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 07, 2014 @ 1:30 pm

Let's do a probable profile of the guy that broke the windows at Vanguard: white male, 20's-30's, doesn't live in SF (or if he does, he's been here for less than 10 years), no job (or if he does have one, works for minimum wage and is a less than model employee), has no career prospects, was involved with Occupy, and decided on the name "Vencemeros" to show his solidarity with the indigenous, downtrodden masses. Sound about right?

Posted by Guest on Mar. 07, 2014 @ 8:12 pm

Sounds about right. In other words, the very model of a "real San Franciscan", in the progressive view, entitled to a subsidized lifestyle here in San Francisco as a reward for his extraordinary cultural contribution to the city.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 08, 2014 @ 8:46 am

You can get local news/politics now from a number of sources and blogs now. SFist is pretty good. The Chronicle is a bit biased but on a scale of 1 to 10 they are a 2 compared to the SFBG's 200

The SFBG does a horrible job of hiding the fact that they are only interested in their side of the story. They just love to lecture you about how terrible the other side is. Readers sense it right away and, most likely, go somewhere more interesting

Posted by Guest on Mar. 06, 2014 @ 8:05 am

"Providing solutions to imaginary problems for 45 years."

Posted by Chromefields on Mar. 06, 2014 @ 11:07 am

Excellent analysis. I'd just like to add that, without you, Marcos and his gang of trolls would have nowhere to go and whine about the "futility" of it all (while doing nothing on their own to change the status quo). Keep shaking those cages, SFBG!

Posted by Guest on Mar. 06, 2014 @ 2:57 pm

So much unfocused hostility here. And a disturbing lack of thoughtful insight or constructive critique. Who are you people? And why do you bother commenting here when you clearly have nothing of substance to contribute (regardless of where you stand on the issues)? Perhaps you were misdirected on your way to Yelp?

Think harder. Try more. Write better.

Posted by Cw on Mar. 07, 2014 @ 1:05 pm
Posted by Guest on Mar. 07, 2014 @ 1:24 pm

What have you ever contributed to the world around you other than snark? Cos' that's all ya got, isn't it?

Posted by Guest on Mar. 07, 2014 @ 4:09 pm
Posted by Guest on Mar. 07, 2014 @ 4:29 pm

Servile and cult of personality politics claiming to represent the majority.

Posted by guest on Mar. 09, 2014 @ 5:10 pm

SFBG surely knows they do not, since their political views rarely win at elections.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 09, 2014 @ 5:24 pm

during the occupy thing, as an example.

progressive rhetoric is one of "the people" versus corporations.

Posted by guest on Mar. 09, 2014 @ 6:57 pm

An real "alt weekly" would be discussing alternatives to the present corrupt, unsustainable, and inefficient political/economic/social milieu we find ourselves in, rather than the differences between Twiddle Dee and Twiddle Dum.

Posted by TrollKiller on Mar. 13, 2014 @ 10:32 am

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