I guess, in the back of our minds, it was really a question of “when will this happen”. Although we can’t pinpoint an exact date (a notice of hiatus was given in late December, editor Lenny Crist confirmed it on his blog), The Walruss, the Mahoning Valley’s attempt at an alternative newspaper in the style of New York’s Village Voice or Cleveland’s Free Times, has ceased to exist. And when their web site hadn’t been updated since mid-December, no one is really all that surprised.
I was glad to discover The Walruss, glad there was a new media outlet that wasn’t mainstream and full of wire reports like The Vindicator, yet not covering trivial, non-newsworthy stories like comunity papers (can we shout The Review from the top of our lungs?). A lot of “alternative weeklies” as they’re called (a bi-weekly in this paper’s case) cover their areas’ arts scene, news that may fly under the radar and political/community commentary, and while these things may occur on a smaller scale in Youngstown, they nonetheless happen. And The Walruss reported on it.
Despite this, I also couldn’t help but be skeptical in the back of my mind as to how long this enterprise would last. Launching a print publication today is among the quaintest of ideas, and one could argue it’d be far more economical, as well as longer-lasting, to use the money spent making print copies towards buying web space and promoting it as an internet zine.
If you’re still not convinced print is a hugely outdated medium, consider this: last week, New York Times chairman Arthur Sulzberger said he isn’t sure if the Times will still be printing in five years, and “he doesn’t care either.” So when one of the world’s most recongizable and respected newspapers suggests they may go online-only in the future, that’s big news.
The paper’s editor, Lenny Crist, said he “has bills to pay” and so has begun looking for work in the teleservices industry to finish paying for his degree at YSU, and isn’t too affected by the death of the paper.
I don’t blame him for this, but I also can’t help but wonder how different it’d be had it been launched strictly as an internet production. The Youngstown bloggers, myself included, want to focus on this valley and have opinions about the events that happen here, but we don’t have the money or the means to mass-distribute it, so here we are. I don’t know how much capital publisher Joseph Rafidi or Crist for that matter had, but I have a feeling they were limited in resources at least to an extent. So like I said, an internet enterprise is more economical, given buying memory space is a lot less expensive than a printing press, and that along with a handful of computers would cover most of their needs.
There’s also the issue of advertising revenue, which may have been problematic for The Walruss, I don’t know for sure. And while an internet move would turn away local clients, it opens a much larger world of dot-com enterprises that would surely continue its publication for years to come.
But that’s what could’ve been.
So maybe one day The Walruss will be ressurected, and maybe they will take the internet-only route. Outlets like this blog who have no money use it, and with the Times hinting towards moving their operations there, it really is what Leonardo DiCaprio kept repeating as Howard Hughes at the end of The Aviator: “The way of the future”
But as of right now, I won’t hold my breath. Mr. Crist has to do what he has to do first, in my opinion.