Posted by: Jon Fine on January 17, 2008
It’s always autumn in certain segments of media right now, and even those still (barely) on the gentle side of 40 are tempted to look out at dusk and think of The Old Days. Or at least that’s true for me, sometimes.
An old pal named Don Smith (a star commenter on this blog who uses the handle of, uhm, Don) recently posted to a private email list some thoughts about the decline of two lodestars of the Indie Nation of the ‘80’s and early ‘90’s: college radio stations and alternative weekly newspapers, a la the Village Voice and L.A. Weekly.
In his post he said so many smart things about those two media forms and their places in the firmament that, well, I’m just going to reprint big chunks of it, in a very lightly edited form:
. . . I am still involved with my college radio alumni organization and there's one thing that's true about both of these institutions, college radio and free weeklies: there was a time when they were the premiere gatekeeper venues for learning alternative information, finding out about alternative music, and experiencing one's first taste of "the media."
The first time I was interviewed, it was for a free weekly and the first paid byline I got was at a free weekly and the first time I heard my voice broadcast it was on college radio.
But my older son, right now, is single-mindedly focused on making his own Lego stop animation films. And he's four. And somehow through asking a lot of questions and people's older brothers he learned how stop motion filming works . . .
So... I have reservations that there will be reliable centralized news of any kind in the future when preschoolers are obsessed with youtube. We experienced decentralized music distribution starting in 1999 and decentralized classified advertising (the backbone of the free weekly) as early as the 1997 Ebay boom, monster.com, but certainly with the nationalization of Craigslist. All of this happened a fair number of years ago.
Lately I heard complaints that my alma mater’s college radio station is just running an mp3 jukebox overnight. People stopped doing shows that were inconvenient. I heard complaints that people are putting together their sets at home and submitting them to the server to avoid doing a shift in person.
I remember going to parties in 1995, 96, 97 and talking about creating massive databases of stories, local biographies culled from stories (think of a wikipedia with a gatekeeper) or simply posting all the classifieds online, every week.
My big thing for these outlets now is for someone to click on a space on a map, whether it be a house, restaurant, nightclub via a GPS-enabled system and be able to join a forum discussing any topic related to that space in a four-dimensional sense: walk near Duke Ellington's home and read historic information about that, walk past a club and see their future band schedule, walk near a construction site and get into an argument about the zoning of that space in a forum. That is the future of block-level local news- not traditionally crafted stories.
It's a sad thing, but like the disappearance of the teen club in 1967 and its replacement the "rock ballroom" and the ballroom's replacement, the disco, and then the disco's replacement... things just keep changing.
The underground newspaper had a great run since 1965, but I can't imagine it succeeding in its current form or even Creative Loafing's form.
People keep blogging for free out of boredom.