Wednesday, November 2nd, 2005

Rant Addendum

So while we’re on the topic of that rant, I did want to say that I’ve been having lots of conversations with friends and not-so-much-friends about the future of alt-media.

Some who objected felt the piece was far too pessimistic. Others figured, eh, I don’t get paid that much anyway for this stuff, so what. To those who feel I’ve slipped off my meds, I will take this opportunity now to say I told you so, so that I don’t need to do it again in a few years when, as one very good friend put it, we could be talking about the sale of Village Voice Media to Gannett.

Still others wanted to draw me into a comparison of Bay alt-weeklies, pointing out that in particular the East Bay Express has been much bolder than the Bay Guardian of late, both politically and culturally.

This week’s Express, for instance, features a thoughtful piece on a friend, Van Jones and the future of environmentalism. Yes, it’s good reading–reminiscent of the Express of the late 80s, actually.

This argument is a sometimes a fun one for those of us in the Bay–and if this were a Friday-night fight, I agree that the Express would be way ahead on the card. (Let’s not even talk about the websites, for which the I think the BG should be crying “No mas! No mas!”)

But it misses the larger point. The Express is unique among NT titles because it’s serving one of the leftiest constituencies north of Havana. When the NT bought the SF Weekly and the Express, it actually did slide right for a time, but swung back left when it realized that because of competition from the BG, that formula wasn’t going to stick in this market.

It is possible that the Express–especially if the quality of its writing remains this good–could generate a number of progressive pieces that flow into red states via syndication. (A very good friend reminded me that this was the case around reviews of my book. Fair enough. I still owe him a few lunches. Though I still don’t forget that Express writers took it upon themselves to personally attack me a year before the book was even out. I guess I had a “KICK ME, I’M PROGRESSIVE” sticker on my ass back then. And I guess they’re gone from the staff now.) But the irony is this: that kind of progressive shift comes at the expense of localism. It’s top down, not bottom up.

Worse, I think it’s just as plausible that if competition ever dries up in the Bay (read: SFBG loses lawsuits, does a Source-like nosedive off the Cliff House) we could have an East Bay Express that is no longer interested in Oakland, but in the growing exurbs on the other side of the tunnel.

So call me a pessimist, call me a whiner. I said what I said, meant what I said. At least I think I did. Thank you and good night.

posted by @ 12:09 pm | 1 Comment

One Response to “Rant Addendum”

  1. Don Hazen says:

    good work jeff on the question of voice/newtimes conglomerization..and yes the EXPRESS is doing was real sad there for awhile, watching it thrashing around grasping for an audience..but my point — I think it highly unlikley that very few, if any,progressive pieces from the Express would ever make it into a red state paper, even new times papers… doesn’t fit – the NT papers almost always write local…and while Van
    Jones cover is a would not fly in Houston, Dallas, Miami, Phoenix etc.,unless of ocurse it was written by Mike Lacey 😉 ..btw, Donnel Alexander, a former bay writer, has a slighly different take on the whole debacle at the LA City Beat

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