"Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored." -Aldous Huxley

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wMonday, October 24, 2005

STRANGER THINGS HAVE HAPPENED: In the current issue of The Stranger, editor and sex advice columnist Dan Savage writes about the sale of Village Voice Media to the New Times alt-weekly chain. It was initially spun as a merger but that fig leaf quickly fell off. Writes Savage:

The VVM chain, including [Stranger competitor] Seattle Weekly, is being "acquired," says the New York Times, which implies that New Times is in control and VVM was in a less powerful position than previously believed.

Dan Savage, meet Russ Smith, founder of and columnit for the New York Press. Ring a bell? Writing way back at the beginning of September Smith predicted that if the rumors of a merger proved true, "it won't be a 'merger' as much as a New Times takeover, since that company would name five of the nine board members and control 62 percent of the equity."

It's hard to disagree with Savage's judgment that there is a "gap between Seattle Weekly's towering self-regard and Seattle Weekly's limp product," but his late-to-the-game discovery that New Times will be in the driver's seat may not bode well for The Stranger.

Seattle has two dailies and two weeklies, and they all bat left-handed. The only thing that sets The Stranger apart is that it isn't boringly left wing. It's a normal alt-weekly fused with a liberal magazine of ideas that doesn't take its cues from the DNC or left wing foundations (and yes: full disclosure, I've written for The Stranger).

Now, what happens if the New Times takeover manages to shake up Seattle Weekly and make it a more interesting, independent voice, maybe even a little bit right wing? Then we would see a war between the two weeklies for writers and advertisers, and the owners of the New Times have deeper pockets than the two-paper outfit that owns The Stranger.

In fact, if the New Times ownership really wanted to turn up the heat, they'd purchase Willamette Week and make Index Publishing fight a two-front war to defend both The Stranger and the Portland Mercury. Your Machiavellian thought for the day.

posted by Jeremy at 1:49 PM