A fascinating look at the golden era of alt weeklies

Belt Magazine’s Laura Putre recalls her early journalism years writing for a Cleveland alt weekly in the 80s and documents the rise of the liberal, sometimes radical, alt weeklies that sprung up in conservative cities that badly needed them. It’s interesting to see the philosophical approach of different alt weekly editors; some thought opinionated columns were a waste of time and focused on hard-hitting journalism while others thought the columns were what gave them a truly alternative voice that distinguished them from their daily counterparts:

More than Detroit, Cleveland, or Pittsburgh, Republican-dominated Cincinnati was hurting for a liberal publication. “The Enquirer was conservative and the Post was sort of middle of the road—it wasn’t anywhere near being liberal,” says [CityBeat editor John Fox]. Fox and [CityBeat investor Tom Schiff] made a good team because Schiff, the money man, wasn’t interested in meddling in the paper’s political coverage. That was Fox’s department.

“I know that first year, we spent hundreds of thousands of dollars and had very few ads,” says Fox. “But we got the critical mass going—most of the arts organizations and music clubs backed us right away. Then the restaurants came along as well. It always takes a while for the more established people—the car dealers and banks and retail stores to come around—because this is a hippie newspaper and the word ‘fuck’ is in there so it’s like giving money to devil worshippers.” A right-to-life group and an anti-gay marriage group called Citizens for Community values “used to hound us all the time,” Fox remembers.