Alternative Newspaper


Seattle Stranger by Raymond Biesinger

An alternative newspaper is a type of newspaper that eschews comprehensive coverage of general news in favor of stylized reporting, opinionated reviews and columns, investigations into edgy topics, and magazine-style feature stories highlighting local people and culture.

Its news coverage is more locally focused and their target audiences younger than those of daily newspapers. Typically, alternative newspapers are published in tabloid format and printed on newsprint. Most metropolitan areas of the United States and Canada are home to at least one alternative paper.

Alternative newspapers represent the more commercialized and mainstream evolution of the underground press associated with the 1960s counterculture. Their focus remains on arts and entertainment and social and political reportage. Editorial positions at alternative weeklies are predominantly left-leaning, though there is a contingent of conservative, and libertarian, alt-weeklies. Styles vary sharply among alternative newspapers; some affect a satirical, ironic tone, while others embrace a more straightforward approach to reporting.

Most alternative papers, such as Seattle’s ‘The Stranger’, the ‘Houston Press,’ the ‘San Francisco Bay Guardian,’ the ‘Village Voice,’ and ‘LA Weekly,’ are free, earning revenue through the sale of advertising space. They sometimes include ads for adult entertainment, such as adult bookstores and strip clubs, which are prohibited in many mainstream daily newspapers. They usually include classified and personal ad sections and event listings as well. Many alternative papers feature an annual ‘best of’ issue, profiling businesses that readers voted the best of their type in the area. Often these papers send out certificates that the businesses hang on their wall or window. This further cements the paper’s ties to local businesses.

Columns commonly syndicated to alternative weeklies include ‘The Straight Dope,’ Dan Savage’s ‘Savage Love,’ Rob Breszny’s ‘Free Will Astrology, and Ben Tausig’s crossword puzzle ‘Ink Well.’ Quirky, non-mainstream comics, such as Matt Groening’s ‘Life in Hell,’ Lynda Barry’s ‘Ernie Pook’s Comeek,’ Ruben Bolling’s ‘Tom the Dancing Bug’, and Ted Rall’s political cartoons are also common.

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