The Liberal Philadelphia Weekly May Become a Conservative Alt-Weekly

When you can't beat 'em, join 'em?

a dog checking out a curbside box for the Philadelphia Weekly, which may pivot to a conservative newspaper

A dog checks out a curbside box for the Philadelphia Weekly, which may become a conservative newspaper. (Photo via chriszak/Flickr/CC)

Philadelphia used to have two so-called alt-weekly newspapers. In one corner, you had the City Paper. And in the other corner, you had the Philadelphia Weekly, née The Welcomat.

But, let’s be honest, they were in the same corner.

The Philadelphia Weekly and the City Paper were both liberal tabloids filled, in more prosperous days, with lots of reviews of rock and punk concerts and CDs (back when there were CDs), personal ads that leaned into kink, and apartments, apartments, and more apartments. In fact, I found many a girlfriend and apartment in those very same ads. But I digress.

Both papers also published their fair share of important stories, giving a voice to those not represented as much — or at all — by other local media outlets. Credit where credit is due.

Well, the City Paper is kaput. The fine journalists there published the paper’s last edition in October 2015. In a nostalgic obit, City Paper veteran Brian Hickey described the City Paper as follows: “It was vibrant. It was important. And it was necessary.” And, at times, it was all of those things.

As for the Philadelphia Weekly, it has somehow managed to hold on, albeit in a rather depleted form. The Philadelphia Weekly is now Philadelphia’s only alt-weekly, and its left-leaning approach has persisted, even if all those ads have not. It has remained a decidedly anti-conservative alt-weekly.

But just what is an alt-weekly in a city filled with a bunch of “liberal rags,” as people like to call us? What is an alt-weekly in a city that has booted legendarily conservative scribes like Stu Bykofsky and Christine Flowers from the pages of its daily newspapers? With all of these “silenced” conservative voices and the proliferation of liberal ones, could it be that the “alt” perspective that needs to be served by an alt-weekly is now … a conservative one?

That’s just what the folks at the Philadelphia Weekly are considering. The newspaper is looking at a transformation into a conservative alt-weekly by the end of 2020.

“Being ‘alt’ in 2020 is different than it was years ago,” writes Philadelphia Weekly chief revenue officer Ed Lynes in a Kickstarter appeal for financial support for the project. “Conservatives are the ones who no longer have a voice — especially here in Philly. People enraged by an inept and ineffectual city government are routinely rejected by the powers-that-be. If you oppose a socialist and intrusive government, your views are rejected by the city’s mainstream media.”

According to the Kickstarter page, the new Philadelphia Weekly would do all of the following, and more:

  • examine the “nonsensical public health policies that defy science and crush local business”
  • keep Larry’s Krasner’s progressive agenda in check
  • demand answers to the city’s “aggressive” homeless population

Any Kickstarter campaign requires the author to list any risks and challenges that are unique to their project. “Pissing off the liberal elite, Philly government machine and social justice warriors,” is how the Philadelphia Weekly pitch responds to that point.

Now, the Philadelphia Weekly isn’t exactly committed to the switch to the other side of the aisle.

“We are considering the move,” Lynes told me, when I asked him if there’s really enough of an audience here to make it a business-savvy move. “[W]e do need to see if there are enough conservative, mad-as-hell, fed-up-with-City-Hall people to ensure this would be a sustainable model moving forward, both in terms of reader interaction and support, and also to attract advertising dollars. To us, these are the voices in Philadelphia who don’t have an outlet right now, and having them as a readership base would continue our mission of being an alt weekly.”

The Kickstarter campaign is seeking $5,900. One week in, the paper has raised just $191 of that goal, though it should be pointed out that the campaign hasn’t received any media attention until this article. (Philadelphia Weekly just posted an announcement on their site this morning.)

Since $5,900 is a pretty small, and seemingly pretty arbitrary number, I asked Lynes about it.

“We felt like it was a number that would indicate both a strong initial response to our move and potential for growth,” Lynes told me.

I asked Lynes if we could expect to see bylines from Bykofsky and Flowers in a new Philadelphia Weekly, if it ever comes into fruition.

“We have a few writers in mind, but we also want to open our pages to new voices,” he replied. “So we’ll be keeping an open mind and invite story pitches from anyone so inclined. Want to apply?”