City Cast

What Las Vegas Lost When It Lost Its Alt-Weeklies

Scott Dickensheets
Scott Dickensheets
Posted on August 16   |   Updated on August 18
Photo of old Las Vegas alt-weeklies

Several of these free papers have met their final deadline. (Scott Dickensheets/City Cast Las Vegas)

You might recall that in May, Clark County threw a concert in Commercial Center, with angrily mixed results. The furor got a modest bounce in the media — including a certain (🎧) podcast you're familiar with — but never lived above the fold. Yet you could sense a story lurking behind the story, with voices, ideas, and contexts going unreported. “If this city still had an alt-weekly,” I told someone, “this would be next week's cover story.” It might've been the 15th or 20th time I said that — this year.

The print media cave-in brought on by the internet has devastated alt-weeklies. Doing their thing below the mainstream but above the underground, alts were a vital part of the conversation a city had with itself: where official narratives got questioned and elites mocked; where you found angles and controversies the big media ignored; where you’d connect with a city's cultural vibrance. (Of course, they could also be puerile, snarky, and shrill. No one's perfect.)

For a brief, wild heyday in the mid-aughts, local readers were wildly overserved by three good alts: CityLife, Las Vegas Weekly, and the Mercury. (Note: I edited the Weekly for a while and later CityLife.) They were distinct yet ultimately complementary, together providing a far more robust sense of the city, its shortcomings, and its mad possibilities than we’re getting now.

The Weekly’s still groovin’, but in a much different register. Mostly, the alt sensibility has evaporated from Vegas, and much has been lost. I miss learning about pockets of the city that don’t interest the Review-Journal’s audience metrics. I miss the phalanx of locally sourced cultural and media critics. Aw, hell, I even miss the wayward snark. Cue the sad trombone.

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