“It used to be the monopolistic daily newspapers in their towns,” notes former SF Weekly and Phoenix New Times editor John Mecklin, “but both the city dailies and the city weeklies have literally been taken apart by the digital revolution, with whole classes of advertising migrating online where, by and large, dailies and weeklies have been late to the revenue and technology party.” Mecklin questions whether alt-weeklies will be able to continue to fund “the kind of long-term hanging around” that distinguished narrative journalism requires.
The alt-weekly staff cuts just keep coming and coming — I doubt the world will again see an alt-weekly fund a 13-month investigation — and one wonders how long those long, long alt-weekly stories will keep flowing, particularly as more of the business moves online, where revenues are low and the 5,000-word story is often viewed as not just uneconomical, but ludicrous.
Mecklin notes that many well-known writers — including David Carr, Susan Orlean and Jack Shafer — began their careers at alt-weeklies. “That training ground needs to be preserved and transferred into the digital world, somehow,” he writes. “For that to happen, the alt-weeklies’ signature work needs to be monetized online. I am not smart enough to say exactly how that ought to happen, but I do think the owners of newsweeklies ought to consider partnering with an entity that would package, market and sell their long-form work.” || Earlier: Mecklin feels “done” as Miller-McCune editor and resigns.
> Association of Alternative Newsweeklies changes its name (July 2011)
> Chicago Reader celebrates 40 years of muckraking, mischief (Oct. 13, 2011)