Mick Farren at CityBeat writes what a lot of writers and editors in the swirl of local alt weeklies think about the prospect of New Times buying the LA Weekly (and all the other Village Voice Media papers) and returning to the Los Angeles market. He says that NT represents the nadir of the term "alternative."
Los Angeles CityBeat has an interest to declare in that it really only came into being as a result of a forced divestiture after New Times and its prime rival, Village Voice Media, were caught red-handed in an illegal market swap. Thus we take a baleful interest in recent scuttlebutt claiming New Times and VVM are now facing off like Hitler and Stalin, and that the outcome will be a massive merger moving toward an alternative-press monopoly. But don’t believe that colors what’s to come. I have loathed New Times since 1996, when its overbosses Mike Lacey and Jim Larkin bought up and closed down the old Los Angeles Reader, deprived a whole bunch of fine and talented folk of both a paycheck and a forum, and replaced it with New Times Los Angeles, a paper that no one in L.A. wanted to read....
Certainly, if my assessment of its overall vision is correct, the alternative New Times offers is a market-driven string of free weeklies, with cookie-cutter design, centralized editorial, voiceless writing, and definitely no old-time Hunter Thompson shenanigans. In this, the company appears very close to Clear Channel, the concert-promoting/tour-sponsoring radio chain that “apolitically” hired Howard Stern, only to fire him when its marketing strategy dictated going gung-ho for Bush’s War.
New Times has demonstrated the kind of arrogance that would cause it to gut what editorial integrity the venerable Voice and the advertising-fat L.A. Weekly have left and force them to conform to the formula that failed before. Here at CityBeat, we can only watch and wait. New Times’ slash-and-burn dislike of competition may well set it gunning for CityBeat, but fuck ’em. I won’t lose sleep. We have faced – and continue to face – far more pressing threats than Mike Lacey and New Times. We have a damaged planet, a cul-de-sac war, and an administration of criminally negligent clowns. Alternatives like New Times only waste useful space in which these and a hundred other issues could be addressed. The alternative they offer is nothing more than easy-sell irrelevancy.
Plus: A New Times columnist retorts in the Romenesko letters: "Proving that he took one too many of those police clubbings to the head in the 60s, Farren then compares the chain to Clear Channel and infers that it’s a tool of conservatives. Utterly ridiculous."