Perhaps the answer to that question is: When their parent companies get as big as the rest of the rest of the media giants.
The SF Bay Guardian has uncovered merger plans for the two reigning giants in the alternative weekly field, the Village Voice and the New Times, creating “an 18-paper chain controlled to a significant extent by venture capitalists.”
That’s about as “alternative” as a new flavor of Mountain Dew.
The article guesses that the new company is being set up so that the whole she-bang can be sold at a profit. The two companies will also have to work with the anti-trusters at the Justice Dept., since the new company would end competition in the weekly newspaper markets of LA and Cleveland.
Now, it shouldn’t come as any surprise that “alternative” weeklies are only alternative to daily newspapers in that they focus more on entertainment and tend to allow edgier content. They are not alternative from the standpoint of management style nor ownership.
That doesn’t mean they don’t occasionally produce good content or challenging stories — but, then, so does the LA Times and Cleveland Plain Dealer.
Rather, whatever “alternative” perspective they once offered during the birth of the alternative weekly as a form in the 1960s and 70s has been entirely captured by the mainstream media form. Gathering them together into one big company is just a culmination of this process.