Seattle Loses One Of Its Most Recognized Newspapers, What Happens Now?
Publishing a print magazine is hard. In addition to finding quality stories to report on, there are ongoing challenges in areas of talent recruitment, production and distribution, box maintenance, and hostile opposition.
It brings us no joy to see a competitor disappear. Sadly, one-time media goliath, the Stranger, has announced that they too have stopped printing their hard-copy newspapers, switching to a completely online version of their magazine. In doing so, they join the Seattle Weekly, City Arts, and Seattle PI, in walking away from print media altogether. At its peak, the Stranger is said to have distributed between forty and seventy thousand copies of its weekly magazine, reaching an untold number of readers.
Seattle has a history of producing great “free-to-the-public” printed magazines going back as far as I can remember. My first recollection of picking up a quality print-paper was a copy of THE ROCKET, which featured alternative-rock heroine Blondie on the cover. It was around 1980 and I noticed a copy while perusing the used record stores in the University District with Elmer, my mentor from the Big Brother/Big Sister program. Ahhh, good times with old Elmer, we’d hit 2nd Time Around, Cellophane Square, and Roxy Music in the U-D, then head downtown to visit Golden Age Collectibles and Time Travelers comic book shops. Good times indeed.
THE ROCKET published from 1978 through 2000, and introduced Seattle to great writers like Glen Boyd and artists such as Matt Groening (the Simpsons). Before grunge swept America, bands like Nirvana, Sound Garden, and Alice in Chains found a home in the pages of this legendary literature.
SEATTLE WEEKLY was published from 1976 through 2019 and was the first of Seattle’s “big three” free fanzines to move to an all-digital format, followed later by City Arts, and now the Stranger. Founded by Darrell Oldham and David Brewster as The Weekly, its first issue was published on March 31, 1976. The newspaper published its final print edition on February 27, 2019. Readers can find articles by Seattle Weekly staff, including a robust arts & culture section, at www.SeattleWeekly.com.
THE STRANGER was introduced to Seattle in 1991 by Tim Keck and cartoonist James Sturm, and at one time dominated Seattle’s print media market. In doing so, made a profound impact on Seattle culture. The Stranger digital edition continues at www.TheStranger.com.
CITY ARTS was perhaps the most artist friendly of the three magazines. From 2006 to 2018, it produced a monthly glossy print magazine, whereas its competitors published on newsprint. City Arts boasted high quality photographers and cartoonists, such as fan-favorite Brett Hamill, who I can readily admit VIBRANT feverishly pursued in hopes of bringing his artistic ability to our magazine. Hamill’s work can now be found online at www.SouthSeattleEmerald.com, where he’s joined by an outstanding group of writers and photographers.
SURVIVING THE GAME
Surviving as a print magazine can be tough, with the two major drains being printing cost and upkeep of outdoor newspaper boxes. Traditionally, print magazines have kept their doors open with advertisement sales. As we’ve worked at establishing community partners and building an advertisement base, we’ve also had the benefit of operating under the Unified Outreach umbrella, a charitable organization that provides funding to arts programs. Sometimes the margins are slim, especially if there is an abundance of box maintenance to be performed. As a black-owned business, we’ve seen our share of vandalism; including an incident where one of our staffers caught an angry millennial militant kicking in the glass of one of our boxes. When she asked him why he was doing that, he told her that “Seattle didn’t need another twerk-magazine.”
Thankfully, we’ve kept other production costs low with all-volunteer management and administrative staff; allowing what funds we do have to be used for printing and maintenance, as well as artist stipends.
An area that we think Seattle could help would be allowing print media seats on the Seattle Arts Commission and the King County 4Culture Board. Unfortunately, print media has been denied a voice on these commissions, and as such have been excluded from receiving the type of support that other mediums enjoy from the estimated $30 million-dollar combined funding that is distributed through the organizations each year. Unfortunately, these “old boys” clubs are not easily accessible, and the appointment process is a long shot for those not connected to the Mayor’s office or City and County Councils.
BEFORE BANDS LIKE SOUND GARDEN, ALICE IN CHAINS, AND NIRVANA WERE HOUSEHOLD NAMES, THEIR BIGGEST WISH WAS FOR A POSITIVE WRITE-UP IN THE ROCKET…
Although some of the well-known newspapers of yesterday have closed their doors, Seattle still has a strong print presence with a number of quality newspapers and magazines, including free-to-the-public magazines Earshot Jazz and ParentMap.
EARSHOT JAZZ, founded in 1984, and celebrating 37-years as a “Mirror and Focus” for the Seattle jazz community, the monthly Earshot Jazz publication has been described as “consistently world class” by JazzTimes, and “a model for what jazz newsletters can be” by DownBeat.
Earshot Jazz surveys the scene with artist profiles, album reviews, local history, career support, and the region’s most complete community-powered jazz calendar. Each month over 6,000 copies of the magazine are distributed free of charge throughout the region. www.Earshot.org
PARENTMAP (no space) is a free monthly news magazine for parents in the Puget Sound, and has been providing fun and educational articles to readers since 2003. ParentMap also offers a web site with a searchable online events calendar for family-related activities, as well as a family directory, where parents can search for local businesses and classes that cater to families. www.ParentMap.com