“The Walruss” is Gone

14 02 2007

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If you’re still not convinced print is a hugely outdated medium, consider this: last week, New York Times chairman Arthur Sulzberger said he isn’t sure if the Times will still be printing in five years, and “he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.

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6 responses

15 02 2007
brooke

heigh-ho…

as a former walruss writer i have to say that its demise caused many of us sadness but it’s easier not to dwell on it and to just chug along.

do you know vindy.com is starting a blog community?

maybe between that and all the existing ytown blogs, we can join together and form a massive blog that will overtake the valley…or just create a unique forum to share ideas, network, and revitalize ytown.

15 02 2007
newytown

Well before the Walruss went under, I was hoping to contact the staff with a possible partnership, and maybe more bloggers would’ve joined and the so-called “alternative media” here would be unified.

I’d still be willing to form a dialogue with other Y-town bloggers about a possible umbrella blog, but for the time being I’ll remain independent.

15 02 2007
LGC

The Walruss wasnt just limited in its funds, it was crippled. The advertising revenue was never there and neither was the structure to grow the company. The initial funding source went loopy the day before we went to press on our first issue and we never really had the cash to do what we needed to do after that. We were all underpaid and overworked, though that comes with the territory. To this day, the paper owes freelancers money. The real miracle is that the paper lasted as long as it did.

BTW, who are you? Apparently somebody on my LJ friends list. Which, btw, journalistically speaking anyway, a “friends only” post should probably be considered off the record and not used in a public forum.

16 02 2007
LGC

I just want to add, in terms of the idea of being web only, that there are few local companies that would pony up the cash to buy web only ads. We also, then, would have needed to add some kind of IT person to the staff, and those people are expensive. Plus, i just dont think a small local site dedicated to Mahoning Valley politics and entertainment is going to draw the kinds of traffic needed for national advertisers. Going web only is feasible for national publications who write stories of interest to the whole country, but there just arent enough interested, tech savvy people living in the Valley who will then click on an advertiser and buy their stuff. Also as an online publication, i doubt we would have the same impact. People have to seek you out online. You can be discovered if you are in print form.

16 02 2007
citizen

http://forums.vindy.com/read.php?1,56220

i don’t know what to beleive about the walrus any more…

21 02 2007
newytown

Mr. Crist,

I’m not on your LJ friends list. Your comments were taken off a forum from downtownyoungstown.com about The Walruss. The only reason I used it was to confirm that the paper was discontinued.

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