Mixed News For Wisconsin’s Alternative Newspapers


The alternative weekly paper Boston Phoenix‘s closing last week after 47 years is a reminder of tough times in print media. In Wisconsin, alternative media representatives say the health of the free, independent papers varies by city.

Alternative papers, like the Shepherd Express in Milwaukee and the Wausau City Pages, can be the go-to guides for local politics and arts coverage.

The publisher and editorial director of Isthmus in Madison, Vince O’Hern, says it has been a rough five years for all print. More people turn to the internet for classified ads, a major income source for newspapers. O’Hern says the dedicated readership and strong content attract advertisers, which keeps Isthmus afloat.

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“That alternativeness, having another place to go for information and another perspective on things is still valuable in the public sphere, but the rules have changed in terms of profitability.”

La Crosse’s Second Supper cut back a year ago, becoming a monthly publication with even fewer pages. Editor Adam Bissen says he would love to be a weekly again; the ad revenue is just not there.

“I wish we could convince people to buy into us because I think the long-term success of an independent press benefits the success of the culture as a whole and independent local businesses are definitely a part of it.”

In Eau Claire, the biweekly Volume One continues to grow. Editor and publisher Nick Meyer says they now run an event production company and a store that sells local products. He says this creates a multi-leveled experience for readers who now have a place to purchase art from a painter they read about or go see a live show from a musician featured in the paper.