---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Wed, 27 Nov 2002 11:47:03 -0800
From: radtimes <email@example.com>
Subject: Its Not Norman Mailers Village Voice Anymore
It's Not Norman Mailer's Village Voice Anymore
Muckraking And Hell-Raising: The Glory Days Of The
Underground Press Are Gone
by Michael Ryan, who has written, directed and produced films, television, and
theater, published several books of humor and satire, and worked as a
Washington and foreign correspondent and editor for major magazines.
I used to make $50 a weekin weeks when my work
was actually publishedworking for what was known as
an underground weekly. It was called The Real Paper,
and it was produced in a rickety old wood frame building
in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
The money was lousy, the work was hard, there were no
health benefits (I was a free-lancer) but there was an
enormous sense of freedom of speech. To make a sad
story short, the paper crashed, and was acquired by a far
more profit-oriented competitor. I started to worry about
the future of the alternative press. Now, I know the worry
I'm not old enough to remember the glory days of the
underground press, when people like Dan Wolf and
Norman Mailer founded The Village Voice as the only way
of reporting on real people's real lives at a time when
mainstream papers were buttoned-down white men's
clubs dedicated to great events and huge institutions. But
if I ever doubted that those days were over, the proof has
In a rare act of cooperation, a team of prosecutors from
John Ashcroft's Justice Department, California's Attorney
General's office, and the Los Angeles County District
Attorney's office have opened a full frontal attack on two of
the biggest "alternative" newspaper publishers in the
country: Village Voice Media and New Times Media.
The lawyers have been issuing subpoenas to executives
of the two companies and compelling them to testifty
under oath as the prelude for what seems likely to be a
huge anti-trust suit, alleging that they conspired to carve
up geographic territories in much the same way that the
Five Mafia Families split their dominions in the 1950s.
It's not Norman Mailer's Village Voice anymore.
According to The Los Angeles Times, which broke the
story, New Times Media shut down its New Times Los
Angeles in exchange for an $8 million payoff from Village
Voice Media. In return, Village Voice received a smaller
payment from New Times to close down the Cleveland
Free Times. That left each "alternative" publisher
essentially in control of the "underground" press of its
If you've been reading the "alternative" press lately, you
know that there's significantly less muckraking and
hell-raising than there was a few decades ago, when
underground weeklies got judges impeached, exposed
sweetheart deals, threw the spotlight on rotten landlords,
and genuinely shook up a culture of smugness and
Nowadays, these weeklies seem to exist mainly as a
vehicle to advertise high-end audio and computer
equipment, health clubs, and sex toysboth mechanical
and human. It was probably inevitable that, as
multi-million dollar businesses, they would have come
under the scrutiny of law enforcement just as Enron and
WorldCom have. It's a pity the story has been so
underreported until now.
If only we had an underground press to dig for it.
This is Michael Ryan for TomPaine.com.
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