Being Alternative

What does it mean to be an alternative newsweekly?

It sounds like a simple question, but it's not simple at all. It's a question we alt weeklies are struggling with in the face of all sorts of issues: corporate ownership, an ever-changing media environment and dailies starting newspapers that look like alt weeklies, even though they're not.

We here at the Weekly do not have direct alternative newsweekly competition. But we will one day; it's inevitable. The proof is in the pudding: While dailies generally are hemorrhaging in terms of circulation, the alternative press is holding steady or gaining readership. And the big newspaper companies, like Gannett, are noticing.

But none of this answers the question posed at the top. Thus, here's how we at the Weekly answer:

· Focusing on being truly alternative--in other words, covering issues not covered elsewhere, or covering them differently. This is why we focus so much on arts and politics, as they tend to get short shrift in other media.

· Focusing on being local. Nationally themed news and commentary are easy to find and are in healthy supply, thanks to the Internet and other means of communication. But locally themed news and commentary are not easy to find. That's where the Weekly comes in--even though our columnists focus their pens on national issues far more than I'd like.

· Being interesting and in-depth. Some newspaper wonks think readers want shorter, shallower news these days. We disagree; we think our readers are smarter than that.

So, there's our answer to the alternative question in a nutshell. How are we doing? I have no doubt you'll let us know.