Monday, October 16, 2006

Seattle Weekly, RIP

Once, a long time ago, I watched a lot of AMC, American Movie Classics. It ran a lot of old movies, black and white stuff, and a smattering of original programming, with no commercials. Then they decided to "improve" it, and added commercials and sent most of the B/W films further up the pay-channel scale and got most its movies from the same 70s-80s vault that TBS and TNT pull from. And I stopped watching.

Ditto TV Guide. Once this was a necessity in the household, a digest-sized weekly booklet that told you not only what program was on, but what episode, and did movie summaries as well. And then its owners decided to improve it to make it more marketable, and turned it into another People Magazine clone, its TV schedule outdone by the Sunday newspaper. Farewell, TV Guide.

And now the Seattle Weekly. It is one of our free weekly papers, and if you're from an urban area, you know what that means. Tabloid sized giveaways in honor boxes and bars, some content up front, restaurant and club news in the middle, and skeezy escort ads and personals in the back pages. Usually left-of-center and struggling, their success measured in the size of their editions and the thickness of their advertising.

For many years, the Weekly was the best little local paper in Seattle, with a stable of solid columnists, a local, left-of-center political view, and real investigative journalism. Youth oriented, activist, and willing to handle stories that the big two (the P-I and the stodgy, estate-tax-fixated Times) would not.

Then it (along with its related papers, including the Village Voice out of New York) was sold to New Times Media, a group out of Phoenix, who kept the Voice name (now called Village Voice Media) but has been gutting its papers of alternate voices in favor of more "local events". So the interesting stuff at the front has disappeared, along with investigative journalism. Such old political columnists like Mossback and Geov Parrish are history, replaced with features on Pet Obituaries and (I wish I was making this up), a humor column called "Ask a Mexican".

And I fell away, but I did pick up a copy the past week to see how the mighty had fallen. The lead article was on long-lasting, high-priced restaurants. There was a humor article about Mayor Nickels sending nerdy emails that was listed under the heading "news/investigations". The Ask a Mexican was sent to the back of the mag, but the skeevy ads for adult clubs seem to have moved forward. Most telling, the letters section, usually one of the more interesting areas (the old Weekly published hate mail like a badge of honor) consisted of two letters, both supportive of the paper.

The Weekly has jumped the shark, seeking an audience that won't read it anyway. I was in a favorite watering hole on Friday and picked up this copy, which is important - used to be you couldn't get a copy after Thursday. There was a big, untouched stack of them by the door, and a much smaller, picked over stack of the Weekly's rival, the Stranger, which has its own rep about being more hip than those hippies over at the "Weakly".

But in the wake of the destruction of the Weekly, the Stranger has been changing as well, its political antenna vibrating in the breeze, its coverage moving in the voice the Weekly has left behind. And so The Seattle Weekly has succeeded where the Stranger has for years failed - it has made the Stranger a relevant, enjoyable paper.

Now if the Stranger would hire Geov Parrish.

More later,