Alt-weekly convention brings grim news, but we look to Grace Lee Boggs for hope
Published: June 13, 2012
Now, we are not experts on the business side of the newspaper business, but we have yet to talk with anyone who can point to a model that has online advertising supporting an enterprise that encompasses all the functions traditionally supplied by newspapers.
We're certainly biased when it comes to evaluating the importance of those various functions, but we're far from alone in thinking that having a free and independent press serving as a watchdog on the powers that be is a crucial component to our democracy.
That, in fact, is one of the points made by Ethan Zuckerman, director of the Center for Civic Media at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Obviously, he's a guy with way more brainpower than the crew here at News Hits. But Zuckerman only told us that it was important to keep on doing the heavy lifting of journalism, not how we can continue to pay people to do it.
As the conference went on, and we did our best to keep paying attention through a hangover haze that grew denser by the day, we began to see a theme in all this, and how in some ways all these problems were connected to an overall decline.
It continued on through Saturday afternoon, when historian, author and Detroit native Thomas Sugrue — the David Boies Professor of History and Sociology at the University of Pennsylvania — sat down for a Q&A with W. Kim Heron, editor of this rag.
Among the other things touched upon in a wide-ranging conversation is the fact that, while the problems facing Detroit might be happening here on a bigger scale, they aren't fundamentally different from the maladies any number of big cities across the country are struggling to deal with. Sugrue is another guy who's blessed with way more than his fair share of gray matter, but he, too, is left at a loss when it comes to knowing exactly how you solve a problem as big as Detroit.
Certainly, a federal government that pursues an urban policy designed to uplift Detroit and its big-city brethren, is key to that. Unfortunately, the hope that Barack Obama — a black Democrat from Chicago — would deliver just that has been transformed into disappointment. Big cities, it appears, just don't have the political clout to bring about the change that they need.
But even the pessimists here at the Hits need to hold on to some hope. In this case, it comes in the form of Detroit philosopher Grace Lee Boggs, who, near her 97th birthday, retains hope of a better future.
If we understand her point of view, it's that the world as we know it will continue to crumble. Detroit is perhaps our most stunning example of how our current system has failed us. But if we are to survive the collapse, we have to rely not on our leaders but on each other.
What will sustain in the long run is community.
And though it wasn't talked much about in the convention sessions we attended, there is a lesson for alternative papers in what Boggs has to say. If we are to survive, we can't just deliver information.
Building and sustaining community is vital for us all. Our future depends on it.
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