What does "alternative" mean anymore? | Bleader

Monday, May 28, 2012

What does "alternative" mean anymore?

Posted By on 05.28.12 at 10:51 AM

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And neither are we.
  • And neither are we.
When does an alternative form of culture stop being alternative? The issue seemed to be on everyone's mind last week when staffers of the Chicago Reader showed up at 350 N. Orleans—headquarters of our new corporate overlords, Sun-Times Media—to be welcomed into the fold with a cocktail party. Word had already gone out that we'd soon be vacating our longtime digs at 11 E. Illinois for this gleaming new space, with its white walls and glass doors and people in slacks wearing ID cards on lanyards around their necks. When I joined the Reader in 1997, we had a proofreader who was homeless and actually living in the office. Something tells me that isn't going to fly at 350 Orleans.

"It just got harder to call the Chicago Reader an 'alternative weekly,'" wrote Robert Feder in his Time Out Chicago blog. "Alternative to what?" Actually, most people I know consider it a welcome alternative to Time Out Chicago. "These days, 'alternative' is all but meaningless,” my boss, Mara Shalhoup, told Feder in the same column. But lost amid all the news about the sale and the usual clucking about the death of the Reader was the fact that, earlier last week, the paper had scored five major nominations in the annual awards of the Association of Alternative Newsmedia: best feature story (Steve Bogira), best food writing (Mike Sula), best investigative reporting (Ben Joravsky and Mick Dumke), best arts criticism (me), and best special section (the entire staff). Alternative may have lost its meaning at this point, but eat my dust still works pretty well.

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