This morning, Metroland, the Capital Region's alternative newsweekly, celebrates 30 years of publishing. What a time in the history of newsprint to mark a 30th anniversary. Nationwide, dailies and weeklies are going smaller, calling it quits, going into bankruptcy or laying off massive numbers of employees.
The causes are skyrocketing newsprint prices (exacerbated by decreasing volume); plummeting advertising dollars (thanks to the Internet); and an economy that is either in a recession or a depression depending on whom you ask (let's blame Bush for that).
So it is in that climate that I join Metroland in celebrating its 30 years of continuous weekly coverage of the arts in our region (along with shorter terms of important alternative news coverage and other reporting and features - the publication began as an entertainment monthly in disco-dominated 1978).
Judging from last week's issue, the new Metroland is smaller than it had been and has lost the nicer white pages it used for the cover and some inside spreads - but it has made up for that by adding color printing throughout. Though the slightly diminished tabloid (it's lost a half-inch in either direction) seems really tiny when folded in half, as I usually carry it, issue No. 5 of Volume 32 is packed with the kind of stuff we have come to count on from our free weekly: thoughtful columns by Jo Page, Paul Rapp and Dan Savage (yes, Savage Love is a favorite); edgy cartoons from Tom Tomorrow and Jen Sorensen (Slowpoke); off-beat political and business coverage; and reviews, reviews, reviews. Last week's issue also includes a full-page guide to Troy Night Out, and several pieces of color art accompanying various forms of coverage of other art-related events.
With the Times Union having recently consolidated its arts coverage into two main sections a week (Preview and Unwind) and The Daily Gazette following suit (this is its first week of reconfigured sections), Metroland at 30 is a major player again.
I'll admit, I didn't see this coming. As a two-time former Metroland contributor (from 1987-91 and 2001-05), my experiences with the paper are too numerous to sort out - but as recently as 6 months ago it wasn't holding my attention at all as a reader. Suddenly that has changed, and I find the tabloid feels as vital as it did back in the day.
The two art reviewers in current rotation represent a high mark for local critical coverage, and though I am not a huge fan of the academic writing style favored by one of them, I know the community at large clamors for whatever the media will offer in this field and is grateful for Metroland's constancy. Sean Stone, now a long-tenured arts editor, is guiding important information to the Art Murmur and Art Beat columns, and the weekly Night & Day calendar feature also regularly promotes gallery and museum offerings.
For all this I wish to thank founder Peter Iselin, editor and publisher Stephen Leon and the editorial staff, writers and photographers of Metroland. Congratulations on a long war well fought - may you battle on for 30 years to come.