Added: Carissa Wirtz - Date: 15.03.2022 08:12 - Views: 25630 - Clicks: 8473
The news late last week that big changes were afoot for Seattle Weekly was greeted by former staffers like a death in the family. For more than 40 years, the venerable alt-weekly has been a major journalistic force in the city. Its owner, Sound Publishing, has drastically cut an already reduced staff and is morphing the paper into a more fitting link in its chain of community newspapers.
Many alt-weeklies are in rapid decline, ditching their print incarnations like the venerable Village Voice or undergoing radical makeovers like The Stranger , now a print fortnightly with a magazine format to augment its Slog. The heyday of these papers ran roughly from the s until , or shortly thereafter.
The first ones were driven largely by baby boomer audiences and the revitalization of cities. They offered alternative coverage to the dailies — challenging, tweaking, speaking truth to power. But they could not avoid media sea changes, especially the rise of the Web and the Ebola that was Craigslist, which proved fatal for many papers. The Weekly was always an outlier in the Alt World. While many alt-weeklies were launched to appeal to young hip readers, Seattle Weekly had more mainstream roots. Thought [it would] be what smart folks would read in their 30s before settling for a daily once kids came along.
In the beginning, the paper seemed more like an alternative version of The New Yorker with a staid yet innovative de by the genius marketer Terry Heckler, the guy responsible for the Starbucks logo and classic Rainier Beer . He modeled it on the Swiss financial press.
The paper was serious, thoughtful and featured long-form journalism and threw great and unlikely writers at various beats. Alan Furst, now an acclaimed novelist, covered the Seahawks. Its mission was to give the city the kind of thoughtful journalism and arts coverage that a major city deserved. Instead of young male clubgoers, it attracted a strong female audience, unusual among alt-weeklies. Unlike the mostly-free alts, it prided itself on having a classier paid circulation. The original investors in the Weekly included Bagley Wright, a major philanthropist and arts patron, and many of the staff were veterans of the original Seattle Magazine of the s, published by KING Broadcasting, which also pushed Seattle to be less provincial and featured thoughtful cover stories on gays, sex and political corruption that shook the city and its establishment.
If Seattle Magazine was ahead of its time, the Weekly was of its time and filled a niche that straddled alternative papers and city magazines. Its journalism made a mark. It was an urbanist paper with architecture critics whose eyes most often focused on downtown. Some criticized the Weekly for loving the city too much. The Weekly never saw itself as an outlaw, as many alts did, but as a place for great writing and building a better city.
The Weekly seemed like an institution from the beginning — the paper the city had always needed — but it was a constant improvisation. It lost money or broke even in the early years. Any excess funds were plowed back into building an editorial stable, or launching new ventures, but the future never seemed assured.
In the early s, there was a surge of dot-com advertising until the bubble burst. More recently, under different outside ownership, it sadly carried Back, the controversial sex ad site. In recent years with dwindling and no major new revenue sources, there seemed to be less room for maneuvering. Over the years, the Weekly sold typesetting and de services; it bought Puget Sound Enatai, a newspaper for the region defined by the inland sea and available on the ferries; it founded the regional Sasquatch Books; it co-owned a printing company; and it launched a separate Eastside alt-weekly, Eastsideweek, in , an effort to capture an increasingly sophisticated suburban audience in the Silicon Forest.
Most of these ventures ended or sold off. I ed the company to head the Eastside effort in Fred Moody, the former Weekly writer and managing editor who now tends bar at a family saloon in Greenwood, has long seen this day coming.
He left the Weekly near its profitable peak in , but felt the paper was doomed as too much a product of baby boomers and their era. The paper had always responded to competitors: The Seattle Sun, which spun off the lively music paper The Rocket, and The Stranger among them. In the mids, the Weekly shifted from paid circulation to a free distribution model. It also began chasing a younger audience with expanded music coverage and edgier stories. This partly reflected a younger staff that was embarrassed that, for example, the paper has missed the coming of grunge entirely, despite sharing an office building with Sub Pop.
Nirvana who? By the early s, the city was outrunning the paper and Moody was sniffing out a slow death spiral for the paper. Those of us still in the Weekly trenches did not want to believe it. Another factor was the success of The Stranger in reaching coveted younger readers. For a while, it seemed like Seattle could support two major alt-weeklies.
As the Weekly has faded and with The P-I daily print newspaper gone, The Stranger has become more mainstream —not just with a Pulitzer to its credit— but as the kind of civic force the Weekly was back in the day. The re-de of the print paper to a magazine format—with its frequency cut in half — is both an admission of the problematic economics of print and a tip to the enduring appeal of a more magazine-like format. Its relatively staid new de suggests less an outlaw paper than one taking its place in The Establishment.
The city has moved to the left and The Stranger reflects the current mainstream views on politics, culture and urbanism, views it has long espoused. The Stranger has reached middle age but in trying media times. Some see great potential in the need to innovate and change. A recent story by Damian Radcliffe, professor of journalism at the University of Oregon, looks at 10 Northwest media outlets and suggests we could be on the cusp of a local news renaissance as organizations adopt new tools, try new ways of engaging audiences and throw out the playbook.
The local media has a future but the forms it takes are in process. The Weekly is morphing, and its large, smart and free-ranging newsroom of old is gone. That is mourned more than changes in the paper per se. But that newsroom launched careers, reshaped the city, enriched local journalism and continues to even now. Crosscut, founded by Brewster a decade ago, is a testament to post-Weekly journalism. As for the alt-weekly version of the Weekly, it might be gone but who knows what the new entity might spawn? Ten years after its leaders embarked on this effort, the Canadian city still has a long way to go.
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