It's always sad for us when news circulates that another alt-weekly has bitten the dust. There's a sense in the alt-weekly world of constantly looking over your shoulder to see what's coming up from behind, that your paper could be next on the chopping block.
Wednesday night's news that Philadelphia City Paper had been bought and that its staff would be laid off, its archives erased, hit us particularly hard. Not because we are related in any way—though we share a name, the papers were founded separately by different people—but because one of our former editors, Jenn Ladd, and a valued freelancer, Andrew Zaleski, now have uncertain futures.
If you're reading this and have freelance work to assign, you should consider them both.
But there's something else about how this all went down that cuts a bit close to the bone for us: A rival competitor buying up its competition so it can destroy it. Despite the bad news in the financial pages about the newspaper industry, this is a power play that harkens back to the glory days of the business. Cut out the other paper(s) in town, and suddenly advertisers have no recourse but to come to you.
More than a year ago, when it was announced City Paper would be acquired by the Baltimore Sun Media Group, everyone on staff here was prepared for the worst—especially since the media company already owned a free weekly in b. And yet here we are, and we've outlasted b. We think some of our most recent work has been our best.
Still, there's only so much comfort we can take from that, and no doubt editors and writers at Philly City Paper felt the same way before the guillotine was dropped on their heads. Baltimore City Paper is fine for now, but who knows how long that will last?
Philly City Paper warned its readers: "If you have any favorite stories, we recommend you save them somehow. Our 30+ years of archives are now the property of Broad Street Media. From what we’ve heard, those might not exist online much longer."
Our own archives are a source of concern for us. They still exist, with stories stashed in various parts of the internet or internal servers, but many articles are missing and some of the ones that are there have bad dates or missing headlines and art. Plenty are hidden in plain site, nearly impossible to find even with the power of Google. We're told this problem will be fixed, but it's unclear how it will happen or when. (We've heard you on the mobile ads too. Hoping that gets fixed as well.)
For now, we've gotta keep moving forward. We've gotta keep telling the stories that need to be told with the depth, detail, and voice with which we want to tell them. We have to try to find the things missed by The Sun and the TV stations. Just like the Philly City Paper did. Just like the Boston Phoenix did. And just like the remaining alt-weeklies out there continue to do.