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Scribe Tribe 

New ways to fund good journalism: Find them or not, we write on, we party on

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Last week, City Weekly played host to the annual convention of the Association of Alternative Newsmedia (AAN) here in Salt Lake City. Our convention hotel was the Little America. Here's all I have to say about that: If you want to impress your industry friends, plan your next convention with the folks at Little America. Rooms, meals, meeting space, the beautiful surroundings and general ambience were simply stellar. It didn't hurt that Salt Lake City now boasts tons of great restaurants and fun clubs. Our stomping grounds made lasting impressions that will become parts of stories that will alter how Utah is perceived. All of us at City Weekly thank you, SLC.

And, yeah, that comes from the newspaper that formerly blasted the late Earl Holding (who built and owned Little America and the Grand America) as frequently as any media could. We were not fans of the process that watched entire city blocks fall to Holding's vision of redevelopment—and particularly of the lackadaisical role of our own Redevelopment Agency, which rolled over and played dead for Holding. From the balcony of our former office on 400 South, across the street from Holding's property, we were close witness to the buildings being knocked down one by one. So, we mocked his parking lot with weekly photos of the piles of dirt and rubble.

We groaned when the small businesses were displaced, one by one. Only in late 2013, the last holdout, the Flower Patch floral shop, was bought out and torn down. Now his dirt lot—once the site of The Newhouse Hotel, The Terrace Ballroom, Gadgets and many other businesses—has been sold to the LDS Church and is a paved parking lot. We don't consider that great progress, but after 30 years of bitching about it, it is what it is—some people have only known it as a parking lot, so it might as well be a good one. And, his two hotels are simply a knockout punch, since no one really expects such elegance in Salt Lake City. And elegant they are, five stars each.

Not quite so for the AAN attendees, noted mostly for motley tastes in personal dress and grooming. In their defense, that motley look is not always the day-to-day appearance of our peeps, but is the result of simple math: Eight hours of seminars, plus two hours of eating, plus three hours of figuring out where to drink, plus nine hours of drinking, plus two hours of sleeping and showering, leaves no time for considering where to part one's hair. That's the natural outcome for an industry that has long been rated one of the highest in alcohol consumption (and formerly cigarettes) in the land, ranking up there with divorce attorneys, penny-stock traders, prison guards and members of the Utah Legislature when attending private junkets to Duluth, Minn. The only difference between AAN attendees and Utah politicians on a junket is that AAN attendees don't have time to watch hotel porn—and even if they did, they would pay for it themselves and not foist the service onto taxpayers.

Oh, and the AAN attendee probably wouldn't be related to one of the stars of the porn show. You caught that, didn't you? Utah not only again ranks among the highest states in porn watching, but also, a subculture of Mormon porn star participants is, uhh, on the rise. Just Google "Fusion Mormon Porn," and you can read all about it. That's the end of today's public-service announcements. Back to AAN.

You likely know that the newspaper industry is reinventing itself. The past decade hasn't been kind to the newspaper industry, particularly since 2011 or so, but not everyone up and died. In fact, nearly everyone survived, some better than others, but none has been spared the blade of budget cost-cutting and downsizing. Persons who spend all day commenting on newspaper comment boards—I call them The Waking Dead—save few kind words for the newspaper industry. All day long, they get it wrong about the economics of the business of newspapers, ironically on newspaper websites. They still believe that all their posts somehow contribute to the net bottom lines of newspapers, since they create more clicks, page views and viewers—which they also wrongly believe are sellable, proof being that all they do is sit on their asses and type, not spend.

A caveat: I appreciate good, honest commentary on any topic—even that which is disagreeable. But today's comment boards, especially at The Salt Lake Tribune, are merely places where University of Utah fans can attack BYU fans, who can attack drinkers who can attack pious Mormons. Write a story about a water-culvert break in Tooele County, and somebody will blame the Cougars and someone else will blame Obama. Then it starts over the next day under a story about kittens in campgrounds. The innocuous becomes inane; any news becomes the pivot point for the next round of repetitive comments. And real news is missed. That's not the newspaper business that I, nor that my contemporaries in the alternative press, know.

Now we've spent another energizing week buttressing each other and learning about how we can blend the next rounds of innovative technology and compelling storytelling into formats that will continue to attract a new generation of young readers to our world. We scour and scorch looking for new ways to fund good journalism. Find them or not, we write on, we party on. So, yeah, Tribune—good luck with that new subscription model. We would have asked you to present that concept to our conference, but, to be honest, the idea sucks.

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