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What Cities Lose When an Alt-Weekly Dies

As the Village Voice stops its print edition, the alternative-weekly era officially ends.
The free Village Voice newspaper announced on Tuesday it would cease publishing in print.
The free Village Voice newspaper announced on Tuesday it would cease publishing in print. Mark Lennihan/AP

The death of the print edition of the Village Voice, which was announced on Tuesday, is being widely eulogized as the end of an era. Which era? Depends on which Voice you called your own—the granddaddy alternative weekly that was founded in 1955 survived a parade of owners and editors over its six decades. It outlived many of its children, the network of other free urban papers that adhered to the model the Voice created. But it couldn’t survive the implacable, unstoppable decay of the print advertising that once sustained alt-weeklies nationwide.

In recent years, those forces have claimed the Boston Phoenix, the San Francisco Bay Guardian, the Philadelphia City Paper, and many other once-mighty brands, a media mass extinction often dubbed the alt-weekly death spiral. Shuttering the Voice in print isn’t so much the end of an era as it is an exclamation point on this phenomenon, and an opportunity to formally mourn what the alternative media once provided—the voices it nurtured, the storytelling techniques it pioneered, the sense of community it helped create.