Hearne: The Pitch Moves Ahead, Fingers Tightly Crossed

0801-Boston-Phoenix-May-4-2012-cover*304Who among isn’t hoping that the Pitch makes it?

It won’t be easy and it certainly hasn’t been pretty, but at least the alt weekly nobody really wanted much and that’s struggled to make a profit is still in the hunt. And while not long ago staff defections and layoffs were the order of the day, the alt weekly is actually doing a bit of hiring – and not just to replace another staff defector.

Enter new Pitch music editor Natalie Gallagher.

Gallagher replaces now former music editor David Hudnall, who’s actually moving up the Pitch foodchain into the much-needed role of staff writer. Gallagher joins another worthy recent Pitch acquisition, Steve Vockrodt ( a KC Business Journal escapee).

That’s two significant hires and an important promotion, all certain to breath much needed life the alt weekly’s diminished reporter ranks. And trust me, that’s a good thing.

Still it’s pretty scary out there in print land, especially freebie/no paid subscribers print land.

The obvious problem being that as fewer and fewer eyeballs are aimed at the printed Pitch – where just about all the money is made – can alt weeklies live off the Web? Unfortunately, that’s a proposition in great doubt at this time, with legendary alt weeklies curling up and dying like the vaunted Boston Phoenix did this past March.

gawker2The elephant in the room: do alt weeklies really matter anymore?

“A reflection of a new world in which alternative weeklies have a real problem: What, exactly, are they an alternative to?” asks John Mecklin, deputy editor at the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. “It used to be the monopolistic daily newspapers in their towns, but both the city dailies and the city weeklies have literally been taken apart by the digital revolution, with whole classes of advertising migrating online where, by and large, dailies and weeklies have been late to the revenue and technology party.

“Much of what had been staples in the bag of alt-weekly editorial tricks — event listings, music coverage, restaurant reviewing, smart-aleck attitude, general (though not universal) leftyism — was also undermined, coopted, replicated, done better or made obsolete by the rise of a host of online competitors, from the lightly staffed city observer sites (SFist, Gothamist, etc.) to Yelp to Gawker and on and on and on. In the lingo of the trade, the alt-weekly was unbundled, disaggregated and knee-capped by the kind of entrepreneurial twentysomethings the founders of many an alt-weekly had been, once upon a time, back in the historical mists of the 1970s.”

That’s the bad news, the good?

“What was actually important about alt-weeklies — and what the best of their founders were most interested in — has not yet found solid competition on the internet,” Mecklin says.

Let’s hope for the best.

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11 Responses to Hearne: The Pitch Moves Ahead, Fingers Tightly Crossed

  1. John Altevogt says:

    Hell, it’s still a better and fairer paper than The Star. Between The Pitch, TKC, JimmyC and this blog you pretty much don’t need The Star for anything. In fact, The Star could save a boatload of cash and gain more respect if they fired their entire editorial staff and hired local bloggers from the various constituencies to write columns for them.

    • POOR JOHN says:

      John, the ax you started grinding against The Star must have been the size of Mount Rushmore when you started. Your obsession with Stalinism, fascism and Derek Donovan leaves people astonished, I’m sure.

      It would almost be funny if weren’t so sick – and sad.

      • admin says:

        Don’t fault him on the Derek Donovan portion of your critique. He’s a very nice guy but far too thin skinned and poorly schooled in his position as a readers rep (forget his fancy new title cloned from Art Brisbane at the New York Times).

        If editors at the Star knew how unprofessionally he acted with readers who take exception with the newspaper or him, he wouldn’t be in that position another day.

        However they have far bigger fish to fry.

    • admin says:

      Thanks for the compliment, but love em or hate em at times, we’d be at a loss if we didn’t have the Star.

      Most of Tony’s content is links to Star and other local media news sites. The TV news is what it is, so take away the Star (which local television and radio stations and the Pitch still feed off) and TKC would starve to death.

      Getting a gander at unsubstantiated rumors (that sometimes come true) can be entertaining, but somebody has to confirm a few facts every now and then and I think we all know who doesn’t do that.

      I too feed off the Star – as do many of you in the comments section. Just think how much less we’d all have to complain about if there was no Star?

      Here’s what’s going to happen, John.

      The Star is going to continue to get smaller and younger. And just as the save-the-world Baby Boomers supplanted the hard-drinking, cigarette smoking news hounds of the previous generation, many of these younger journalists are going to bring fresh ideas and perspectives.

      And happily, they won’t be weaned in a world where the newspaper held a monopolistic position and was able to do as it pleased with few to answer to.

      They’ll be fewer in number, far harder working and probably far more down to earth than the current breed. That’s my theory, anyway.

      • mike t. says:

        let’s hope you’re right hearne. and while i’m not quite old enough to actually remember the hard-drinking, cigarette smoking news hounds of yesteryear, i wouldn’t mind one damn bit seeing their kind return. i’d even take a woodward or bernstein.

  2. balbonis moleskine says:

    If the pitch goes away, we wont have the backpage anymore and the only person we will be able to call at the star for handjobs is Yael and Hoopz, who have a reasonable 4 handed rate.

    • admin says:

      Maybe, Balboni…

      But I think we’ll always have online classified action, including the Back Page.

      It must be a big moneymaker, otherwise it might have gone away when the paper changed hands two years ago.

      • Balbonis Moleskine says:

        The demographics of a segment of my business would be absolutely great to advertise in a Pitch-weekly type of environment. I don’t do that because of the negative association with prostution/massages/dating services that the Pitch brings. Because of that, when I do print I advertise in the U-News instead.

        One of these days I need to motivate and discuss banner ad prices with you…

  3. the dude says:

    Yes, they do still matter. Like John said the main newspapers have become more irrelevant than the alt papers.

  4. admin says:

    Unfortunately, the alt weeklies aren’t taking in the big bucks that dailies still are. Plus they’re giving away the papers for free, where the Star for example is not only charging, but raising its rates even as circulation drops and readers are getting less and less news and opinion.

    Give the Pitch credit though, they’ve bottomed out quality and content wise and are putting out a far better print Pitch. They’re even better online, but there’s very little money to be made there in the near future and the print pub is having an extremely difficult time keeping up with the overhead.

    Tough spot to be in.

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