Deirdra Funcheon, managing editor of Village Media Group Florida alt-weekly New Times Broward-Palm Beach, has some choice words today in response to a New York Times op-ed earlier in the week by Baltimore City Paper editor and author Baynard Woods. The op-ed was headlined “Are Alt Weeklies Over?”
Funcheon writes that despite the fact that the financial struggles of alt-weeklies are similar to those of just about every other U.S. media tier, these publications have been unfairly singled out in recent years by doomsday-sayers. She has no idea why an alt-weekly fraternity member such as Woods would choose to “castrate” himself in the NYT, especially for such tediously familiar territory:
Not only is the article a rehashing of the 2012 NYT piece “Are Alternative Weeklies Toast?”, which was itself a rehashing of a BuzzFeed article (Did ya catch that? The NYT follows Buzzfeed and then dares to condescend to alt-weeklies?), but its logic was really dumb: alt-weeklies are important, and another company just came and saw value in my paper and paid money for it, so now all alt-weeklies are dying and everyone is “glum”!
The author’s premise is that his paper is going to start sucking because a corporation bought it. Whether your paper starts to suck or not will depend on a lot of variables from the writing ability of your staff to the commitment of your owners. I can tell you that a big company owns my paper, and guess where my fellow managing editor Tim Elfrink was yesterday, when the NYT published its story? In Boston, headed to Harvard University to pick up his check for $10,000 for being a finalist for the Goldsmith Prize for Investigative Reporting for his work on Major League Baseball. (He’s up against the Wall Street Journal and ABC News). Or was it to pick up his George Polk award? (As a finalist for this, he’s in the company of reporters from the New York Times and Washington Post.) I can’t remember; he’s won so many this year. He’s up for a Pulitzer.
Funcheon’s piece is a must-read and a tonic for anyone who regularly picks up a print copy of their city alt-weekly. She goes on to address the straddling that all media outlets must do today between fluff and serious content. Funcheon says she beamed when a recent reader commented: ‘New Times may do the occasional story about Bieber farting in a jacuzzi, but when they do an investigative story, watch the f*ck out. They play no kind of games.’
Full piece here.
Update (5:30 p.m.):
Via Twitter, op-ed author Woods is taking issue with Funcheon’s read:
Update (March 7):
Woods has now posted a more formal response at his City Paper end. An excerpt:
Funcheon is a managing editor at New Times Broward-Palm Beach and the fact that she didn’t bother to argue with the actual substance of my [New York Times] piece but with a hastily constructed straw man is the closest I have come–after a very embattled week–to feeling despair for the world of alts.
On the other hand, I applaud Funcheon’s fighting spirit. Of our sale to the Baltimore Sun Media Group, I wrote, “My concern, though, is not that things will change overnight, but that over time, under corporate ownership, we will lose our edge. When that happens to other institutions in Baltimore, we’ve been the ones to cry ‘sellout!’ I’d like to think that, in doing so, we’ve made the city a somewhat better place. But who will do the same for us?”
Funcheon clearly wanted to be that one and I applaud the impulse. But the cynical bid for attention masquerading as critique does not do the job…