Following the cover scandal, the paper received what seemed like a gazillion phone calls. Ahmad apparently has received dozens of emails about writing for the paper. If anything good came from this, the response to the scandal made up for all the attention that we never got for the past thirteen and a half years. Many of the folks who called expressed support for Alt and its work but many others agreed with Ahmad. The recurring question is what next?
Many people want to know whats next for Ahmad? Has he been fired or shot? Well, how do you fire free help? It was even more difficult to track him down after the infamous cover. But when press time came, Ahmad appeared, knowing that we didnt have anyone else to do the covers. I surprised him when I asked him what he wanted on the cover. He almost surprised us when he replied, Nothing. I said almost because you cant really be shocked after his last stunt. Leave the cover blank, he said. If we have nothing to write and nobody reads what we write, then we should have nothing on the cover.
I got his point; I agreed and, so there, you have it. The truth. Nothing, a perfect symbol for our paper and for dying journalism in Buffalo. After thirteen and half years of publishing, whats next? I just wrote: Nothing.
To be honest, theres nothing we can do. We could try being like Art Voice, but in my humble opinion, the AAN alternative press formula of faux-journalism sucks. For that matter, the whole group of AAN bubblegum alternative weeklies sucks (botox for everyone)! They are commercial self-censoring and corporate and do very little real investigate journalism. They never offered a real journalistic alternative to the mainstream. The real joke is that the few independently owned weeklies are either being eaten up by the very same media conglomerates that dominate the mainstream media or that are competing against them. An example of this is the duel in Rochester between The City Paper and the Gannett weekly The Insider.
Everyone weve spoken with tells us that they all read the same sections in Art Voice: Street Voice, News of the Weird, and What Has Happened (do they still have that section?). Art Voice doesnt have a real readership. They have a viewer-ship. And while were not exactly sure what the statistics are on reading habits in this city, we do know that looking at pretty pictures is still fashionable and qualifies as a winning formula for expensive advertising. (Can you hear the jealousy in my voice?)
And then there is The Beast formula of puberty and bad politics. It offers the worst of all possible worlds: neither a readership nor a viewer-ship but just white-noise suburban pimply urban wanna-bees. But both The Beast and Art Voice have something we also dont have: A Target Audience.
From the beginning, we thought that we were writing for readers, not viewers. We thought that certain pockets of the city would appreciate a paper that took the same stories as The Buffalo News and offered an alternative opinion. People have complained about Buffalo being a town with only one voice, and we set out to fix that. For instance, The Buffalo News did not do a good job in telling its readers about the millions of dollars that the federal government pumped into Buffalo to fight poverty and to rebuild the inner city, and how millions of those dollars are still unaccounted for. In any other country, Mayor Anthony Masiello would have been shot. But fortunately for him, The Buffalo News covers for him. The rest of the city fell asleep on the issue, and the few people who read our articles do not care. That is why journalism is dying; who cares? Just look into the stalls in the johns in city hall, and you will find Alt. It is all Political Porn. Alt is too dangerous to read at lunch. You could lose your political patronage job in city or county hall if youre caught reading it. So what if America or Buffalo is becoming a media desert?
But well take part of the blame and admit that we, in the past, did a poor job. As The Beast pointed out during its pre-emptive war against us, our paper was and is dense, difficult to read, and designed around text (bad design for the modern mind). Thats not a winning formula when youre competing against bubble gum, beer, and ass.
All of our writers are local volunteers. So were going to do the best that we can from here on. And to prove that we can learn from our mistakes, were going to wipe the slate clean and start Alt Press all over again. Ahmads blank cover design is the appropriate statement.
ALT IS BORN AGAIN AND SEES THE LIGHT OF THE NEW JOURNALISM!
We understand that sex and Mexican puppies sell. If a call for writers worked for Ahmad, then maybe a call for nude models will work for us. Were looking for some women to show it all in front of the camera. To be fair, and since were an alternative paper, we should probably invite a few men to come and pose, too. Let it hang, boys. And as a note to Paul Fallon, Buffalos only political nudist, youre welcome, too, big boy. Masiello, weve already exposed you concerning the HUD scandal. We may as well expose the rest of you. Come on down.
Fear and violence seem to do the trick, too. Wed like a few African-American volunteers to arm themselves with pads, pencils, cameras, and an AK-47 and head over to Buffalos east side. Adventure is guaranteed. Safety isnt.
Speaking of all that, racism is always a hot spot. You cant get more racist than Buffalo. Well, you can if you work at it. So heres our promise: When the next black man gets a beat down by the police, well be there with video cam and everything. That should satisfy the racist appetite. But the next time that city hall hustles the inner city for a cool million, well leave that one alone. Nobody reads that. Well, how about the time that the Buffalo fire department leaves the city unprotected. Who cares? Just burn, baby, burn.
Hmmmm... what else? General local media crap? Well, hell, we gave you the issue on the Sewer Authority, didnt we?
Oh, I know Im whining! I know Im leaving the door wide open for even more criticism.
Well, we said all that to say absolutely nothing. But we dont regret it. And while were at it, thanks to all of the people who wished us to go away (wish granted?). Thanks to The Beast for opening our eyes to the truth. Thanks to Art Voice for... um... the street festivals. Thanks to the political bozo twins, Joel Giambra and Too Tall Tony Masiello, for giving us a warranted source for our rage. Thanks to Buffalo for being so economically depressed. Continous failure is guaranteed, and gray is not just another color; it is a way of life. We couldnt have done this alone. (Sniffle. Sniffle.)
P.S. No doubt after this, The Beast will retaliate. They love attention. Theyll probably even move some of those boobie ads to the front cover. If they do, well sue!!! That was our idea!!!! We dont expect a response from Art Voice. After all of these years, Jamie doesnt even read Alt. (Boo Hoo.)
P.P.S. For free pot, call By Joe Schmidbauer
I learned a painful lesson on June 25th, when I published yet another boring Alt Press issue. Everything appeared to be OK. Everyone was there, including Ahmad Jordan who created the now infamous Alt cover that well told the truth. Everyone has asked me, Was it real or was it a big joke we played on ourselves? Well, heres the story: Ahmad did a cover for the Sewer Authority Issue that and we dont feel bad saying it now sucked (to use his word). He wasnt that excited about the issue and complained a bit about the lead story. In retrospect, I now see that his unusual lack of complaining was the sign that something wrong. Had he bitched and moaned like he normally does production night, then that would have passed as normal behavior. But Ahmad simply came in, gave us a CD and watched us open it. Nobody said anything about the cover.
The staff was as excited about the cover as they were about the vegetables they wouldnt eat when they were kids. Gabe Schmidbauer (publishers son and associate publisher) placed the cover into the document and said, Okay. After giving Gabe the cover, Ahmad left. He said that he might be back and that he was thinking of going to Thursday at the Square. What I didnt see was his returning to the office and changing the cover into an open letter. I also didnt see Gabe intercepting the revised cover at the last minute and allowing it to go to press.
The real blow is that Gabe showed his view of Alt by allowing the publication of the open letter cover, something that he could have stopped.