NORFOLK, Va. – HearSay with Cathy Lewis earlier this month had a panel on alternative media in Hampton Roads region, which effectively was a discussion about the monthly print pub Veer Magazine and the online outlet AltDaily.
Though it aired Aug. 10, I finally had a chance to hear the whole thing this past week, and mention it here in large part because I’ve written about alternative media here and elsewhere, and I have a loosely scheduled interview for this blog that surely will touch upon the topic.
Lewis’ guests were:
- AltDaily publisher Hannah Serrano and editor-in-chief Jesse Scaccia. AltDaily is an online outlet, though Serrano said they’ll role out a print product of some kind later this year. Looking forward to it. AltDaily‘s strongest content, including its sharp take on news reported elsewhere, could do well on the page.
- Veer Magazine publisher and editor Jeff Maisey. Veer is a monthly publication similar in some respects to the defunct PortFolio Weekly, which Maisey once edited. Veer‘s website, which is fairly straight forward, is due for a facelift soon, he noted.
Overall, a good talk. I had one minor issue, and I’ll come back to it, but I want to stress:
- I love HearSay and public radio, and am glad Lewis covered this on her show.
- I consume both AltDaily and Veer Magazine, in addition to The Virginian-Pilot and a variety of other local media, such as Vivian Paige’s All Politics Is Local blog.
- The conversation absolutely is worth a listen at this link.
Lewis opened with a definition:
Broadly speaking, we might think about alternative media as those publications or shows or websites or institutions that share news that often because of commercial media business models aren’t necessarily part of the mainstream media.
So you will find stories in the alternative press that you may not find in your standard media outlets. And if you’ve been a media consumer in Hampton Roads for a long time you will probably recall (the now defunct) PortFolio Weekly.
Over the course of the show, she asked each guest to offer their definition.
One of the positives of having alternative media is when the major media companies choose to pull back, whether it’s difficult economic times like we have now or whatever, alternative media, whether it’s AltDaily online or Veer in print and online, we’re able to fill that void to make sure that many important things in the community get covered that might not get covered at all.
Later he added:
I think being in alternative media, it’s also giving a second opinion. … It’s also about not being censored.
Serrano’s answer was cut short, unfortunately, but she tried to discuss independence – an often suggested flaw of The Pilot-owned PortFolio – while also apparently trying to note that some corporate owned pubs can do well:
Well alternative media, it’s interesting to describe because I think it’s mostly based on content but definitely ownership is a major part of it. Independent ownership of media is a clear definer, but I do want to make a specific point of the difference between PortFolio Weekly and a sister publication Style Weekly in Richmond which is also owned by Targeted Publications and (Virginian-Pilot Media Companies).
This comment was cut short, but Style is an effective alternative publication whereas PortFolio (for which I wrote from time time) was in some ways less successful, though they share/shared the same ownership. I think it probably has a lot to do with the fact that, with PortFolio, The Pilot effectively owned both the dominant paper and the “alternative” weekly in the same Hampton Roads market. Whereas The Pilot/Landmark owns Style in Richmond but the dominant outlet is The Richmond Times-Dispatch. The T-D is owned not by The V-P’s parent company but by Media General. Competition is good for outlets and consumers alike.
Lewis put the “what is alternative” question to Scaccia, prompting this exchange:
Scaccia: I think the word alternative in and of itself is kind of establishment-centric. So that’s not a word I would necessarily —
Lewis: What would you call it? Alternative as in alternative to the establishment with air quotes around that word.
Scaccia: Yeah and all the values that comes with sort of an establishment mindset. So I think we’re just something different, working in the same city as The Pilot and any other establishment mainstream media. … I think the benefit that we have is we kind of decided early on to object to the idea of objectivity. You never stop being a person. It’s not like you become a reporter and God lifts you up onto the mountain and you can see everything clearly now. So all of our writing is first person. … We have viewpoints and our writers certainly have viewpoints.
I think Scaccia did a good job summing up what makes some of AltDaily‘s content a worthwhile read to me, and also why the site is a different beast than Veer.
My very minor beef: I wish there had been more discussion of original public interest reporting, which is an area that makes good alternative media outlets even better.
HearSay airs from noon to 1 p.m., Monday through Friday, on WHRV 89.5 FM. You can find out more about the program and its host at this link.