That’s not to say that excellent journalism doesn’t still happen, often, in alt weeklies. But publishers don’t give the proper respect to the people who do so, and it’s part of the reason why these papers are vulnerable to the growth of community websites in the first place. Column inches are short, and if you’ve got writers who are passionate enough to want to work for the low pay in the paper, let the writers write! Give them blogs, expand the columns online, let them cut loose.
And live up to the standard you’ve set, Tim. You say “And he puts nothing back into the community: He doesn’t, for example, hire reporters or serve as a community watchdog.” Craig spends hours every day tracking down scammers and shady characters in communities he doesn’t even live in. He turns down more money in buyout offers every year than a typical alt weekly has earned in profits during its entire existence. But somehow I can still go to the SFBG homepage and see a tired, unpersuasive, preaching-to-the-choir rant about how Bush should be impeached. Even the people who are in complete agreement can find a better version of the same thing in any one of dozens of left-wing blogs. Where’s that deep pool of resources you’re investing back into your community? […]
My advice? If you have a newspaper, publish something that’s unique to your community; Write something that nobody running a website on the other side of the country would have enough knowledge or information to create. Find a business model that makes your work seem valuable instead of worthless. Free the smart, creative people on your editorial staff to express themselves, especially online, without having to obey seniority rules or arbitrary limits.