Courtesy of The Other Paper
Everything went dark at The Other Paper.
Wednesday night before publishing its final issue, the alternative weekly newspaper changed its Facebook cover photo to a solid black rectangle – a digital salute to more than two decades of alternative journalism in Columbus. Publisher Max Brown founded The Other Paper in 1990 and for the next 23 years “tried to stir the pot” said Aaron Marshall, a former Other Paper writer.
“We thought of our readers as smart, busy people who liked Columbus but were skeptical, I guess, that everything that was going on was being reported and investigated,” Marshall said.
It was announced that The Other Paper would cease publication on Jan. 4 in a release by The Columbus Dispatch, whose parent company, The Dispatch Printing Company, purchased The Other Paper in September 2011.
At the time of the purchase, The Dispatch Printing Company already owned Alive!, another Columbus-based alternative weekly newspaper, which it bought in 2005.
“In viewing the research of who reads the two publications, and after hearing from the local advertising community, it became more and more obvious that one publication would better serve our readers and advertisers,” said Michael Fiorile, resident and chief operating officer of The Dispatch Printing Company, in a release.
For some local journalists, it was clear that The Other Paper’s days were numbered once the purchase was complete.
“What does The Other Paper mean? Well it’s the other paper other than the Dispatch. So, for the Dispatch, the paper, to own The Other Paper – it just kind of doesn’t really work,” Marshall said. “It didn’t make sense to people who worked at The Other Paper and read The Other Paper.”
The Other Paper printed its final edition on Thursday.
The Dispatch Printing Company came to a three-year agreement to distribute The Onion, a satirical newspaper, less than a month before purchasing The Other Paper.
“I thought they were just going to cancel us and use The Onion,” said Wes Flexner, music journalist for The Other Paper and DoneWaiting.com. “Because The Other Paper was kind of funny, they were gonna replace The Other Paper with The Onion.”
Executive director of the Ohio Newspaper Association, Dennis Hetzel, was less surprised.
“If you look around the country, even cities bigger than Columbus are not supporting two alternative weeklies,” Hetzel said. “So it was kind of an anomaly, not unique but unusual that Columbus had two alternative weekly publications as long as it did.”
The Other Paper not only competed with Alive!, but with the increasing number of alternative voices and news sources on the Internet.
“Alternative weeklies, which grew up being anti-establishment, have become another part of traditional media,” Hetzel said. “They face the same challenges that everybody faces.”
Hetzel also said that while it was hard for him to imagine how both alternative weeklies could have gone forward together, The Other Paper is an unfortunate casualty.
“It’s always sad when a newspaper closes,” he said.
Flexner agreed that The Other Paper closing down was a loss for Columbus.
“It’s been part of everybody’s life for so long,” Flexner said. “It’s another really special thing that’s kind of being stripped from our city – another thing being extracted from the personality of our city.”
Eric Lyttle has been editor of The Other Paper for five years. In his final editorial, titled “Turn out the lights, the party’s over,” Lyttle employed The Other Paper‘s signature style of sarcastic humor.
“Notice of our sudden death was handed down just as we were beginning to launch into the 2013 version of our annual Bar Guide. It’s the most soul-sucking project of the year – calling hundreds of bars, one after another, updating their hours and such,” Lyttle said. “If the Dispatch had to shutter The Other Paper, I’d like to thank them for doing it before we’d started Bar Guide 2013.”