Thursday, May 07, 2015

No alternative

Back in 1992, when I first moved to the Twin Cities, there were two major alternative weekly newspapers around -- the Twin Cities Reader, and City Pages. The TCR gave up the ghost years ago, leaving the field to City Pages. Other weeklies have tried to compete and have gone -- the Rake, Metromix and a local version of the Onion, to name a few. Over the years CP has had some very good writers in its employ and has, from time to time, been a useful source for stories that the larger media in town don't want to discuss. Sure, it was reliably leftist and often relied on commercialized nookie for much of its ad revenue, but those are the rules of engagement for most alternative weeklies.

Now, we have word that a big change is on the horizon:
The Star Tribune agreed Wednesday to buy City Pages, a deal that creates an uncommon coupling of the biggest alternative weekly in the Twin Cities and Minnesota’s largest news organization.

In buying the publication from Voice Media Group, the Star Tribune Media Co. said it would stop publishing Vita.mn, a website and weekly tabloid that refashioned the Star Tribune’s entertainment coverage into formats that directly competed with City Pages for readers and advertisers.
It's hard to be an alternative when you're owned by the entity you're trying to be an alternative to. And the Strib acknowledges the point in its coverage of the sale:
City Pages continued to draw more advertising than Vita.mn, and its news pages are less formal in tone and quicker to throw an elbow, often enough at the Star Tribune.
While the Star Tribune swears it will keep the newsrooms separate and that editorial decisions will be independent, I wonder about that. My guess is that CP will eventually morph into a slightly edgier version of Vita.mn. There are a lot of voices in the Twin Cities media, but they tend to be singing out of the same hymnal. This sale only exacerbates that trend.

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

Very sad, especially the announcement that CP will no longer carry the adult ads. Like it or not there needs to be an outlet for those businesses.

In a related note, what about the Strib's new website design? Looks like they are trying to go upscale, right down to copying the WSJ's illustrated author heads. But the font choice is hard to read and the narrow-band layout ... ick.

R.A. Crankbait said...

Left unmentioned is that the Strib was recently purchased by Glen Taylor, a Republican. While his conservatism may be questioned by some (or many), he's the closest thing this market has seen to a Rupert Murdoch or Roger Ailes in some time (and will no doubt be branded as such). Since taking over, the Strib has run more stories than the Left is used ot seeing on corruption and institutionalized rent-seeking in the legislature and the Mpls school district. I'm wondering how this might play out in the Pages, and if we might not see more investigative opportunities for folks such as Gary Gross or Sheila Kihne.

Mr. D said...

I'm wondering how this might play out in the Pages, and if we might not see more investigative opportunities for folks such as Gary Gross or Sheila Kihne.

Now that would be an alternative.

Bike Bubba said...

If indeed adult advertising is a big market, we could end up seeing another alternative newspaper showing up. The question is whether I would want to read it after seeing the ads.

That said, I don't know that the City Pages really offered much of an alternative to the Strib. Both were pretty monochrome in what they did in about the same way.

R.A. Crankbait said...

The alternative press credo has always been to "comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable." There's no entity more comfortable in the MN metro than the DFL and their NGOs and all the nod and wink accounting methods. The Strib's made a couple of polite pokes into this since Taylor bought the paper; it boggles the mind to think of the lefty night-sweats a true watchdoog investigative journalist could turn up with a little encouragement (backing).