losing something

I’m on the Internet as much as anyone. Probably more than I should be, although much of that time these days is spent on activities related to my job search.

I am also a veteran of the alternative news weekly. In the early 1980’s I was the first classified advertising manager at the Oklahoma Gazette, and when I moved to the Bay Area in 1985, I became the first classified advertising manager at San Jose Metro.

AltnewsWeekliesThe rise of the Internet, has, it can be argued, meant changes, and not for the better, to the alternative news weekly landscape. That is the case in San Francisco. As columnist C.W. Nevius writes in the San Francisco Chronicle, the storied Bay Guardian closed in October, and SF Weekly is rumored to be headed to a more entertainment and features focus, as the new editor was previously the editor at Acoustic Guitar magazine. (I don’t include a link because the column is behind a pay wall.)

Nevius opens the article by writing: “A few years ago, the San Francisco Bay Guardian called me a ‘conservative suburban twit.’ I miss that.”

He tells us what I know to be true of the alternative news weekly:

quoteAlthough the Guardian and the Weekly spent much of their time sniping at mainstream media like The Chronicle, it was still valuable to have contrarian voices in the city. They didn’t always convince us of their point of view, but they fostered the debate.

Nevius says: “Opinionated, news-driven independent newspapers are slipping away, partly because it’s so hard to make the finances work in the Internet age.” He quotes former the owner of the Guardian, Bruce Brugmann: “You look at the alternative papers, it’s awful,” he said. “Before the Internet, we had a lot of power. We had classified ads, personal ads. In the late 1990s, we were up to almost $12 million in revenue.”

Nevius goes on to state: “Of course, slipping revenue is a familiar story for newspapers everywhere. But there’s also a concern that the blogs and Internet sites are content to sit back and snipe at mainstream coverage, rather than getting actively involved in boots-on-the-ground reporting.”

The Internet is a great tool for all kinds of purposes, including information, education, entertainment, and community. But there is a downside to every technology.

The collateral effect in this case is unfortunate indeed.

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