Thursday August 18, 7pm – Non- Fiction – Alternative Media
The LA Vanguard, ThisCantBeHappening!, and the Future of Alternative Journalism
The staffs of two remarkable alternative news organizations, the Los Angeles Vanguard of 1976, and ThisCantBeHappening!, a current online alternative newspaper, will come together to tell the stories of these two publications, and discuss the alternative media, past present and future. All those who care about the future of real journalism are invited to attend this forum.
In the spring of 1976 in Los Angeles, the venerable Free Press, one of the nation’s pioneer alternative weekly newspapers, died. Popularly known among its readers as “The Freep,” the paper was converted overnight into a vehicle for massage parlor ads, featuring porn stories, primarily. The last editor of the paper, veteran journalist Tom Thompson, walked out. He, and his law-student wife Dorothy, promptly called a meeting of journalists who had written for the magazine–people like Ron Ridenour, Dave Lindorff and Ben Pleasants, as well as others in the city–and proposed that the group figure out a way to start a new alternative newspaper. Thus was the Los Angeles Vanguard created.
For over a year, the LA Vanguard, run as a collective, with the editor/writers owning half the publication in return for working for a very meager weekly wage, and a funder, liberal Democratic activist and plumbing supply wholesaler Jim Horowitz, owning the other 50% in return for a $50,000 investment, took the city by storm. The paper, in its short life, exposed rampant violence against citizens by the para-military Los Angeles Police Department, invasive practices of the phone company, Pacific Telephone (often on behalf of police agencies), judicial corruption, and nuclear hazards. The publication won awards in its 14-month run. It also attracted the unwanted attention of the LAPD “red squad”, the Public Disorder Intelligence Division, which dispatched a young female undercover cop to infiltrate the paper in the guise of an aspiring freelance writer, hoping she could uncover the paper’s contacts inside the police and sheriff’s departments. The LAPD also worked to destroy the paper another way, by applying secret pressure to the paper’s ad sales agency, saying if they did no work to sell ads, but only pretended to be trying, while collecting fees for their non-service, the agency’s owner’s son, busted for drugs, would be let off. This vile campaign ultimately killed the paper, which was folded by the staff, who thought erroneously that it not commercially viable.
Last June, journalist Dave Lindorff, who had been running a mildly successful news blog established in 2004 called ThisCantBeHappening!, decided to convert his one-man project into an online newspaper. He invited several other journalists whom he knew well and respected both as reporters and as human beings, to join him as a collective to found ThisCantBeHappening!, a daily online newspaper of politics and culture. Two of those journalists, like Dave, are local people–John Grant, known to many for his long activism in the peace and anti-war movement, particularly as a member of Veterans for Peace, and Linn Washington, Jr., a professor of journalism at Temple University and a long-time columnist with the Philadelphia Tribune. Rounding out the collective is New York journalist Charles M. Young, a legendary figure in rock and roll journalism.
In its one year of publication, ThisCantBeHappening! has been read by tens of thousands of people across the US and around the world, and has broken stories no other media have touched, or would have touched. It was the only publication in the US to air the dramatic cell-phone video of Israeli IDF soldiers executing at point blank a young American on the deck of the Gaza aid ship the Mavi Marmara. TCBH! broke the story that Raymond Davis, arrested in Pakistan and charged with murder for the execution slaying of two young men on motorcycles in Lahore, was really a CIA contractor. Two TCBH journalists ran a gun test on a slab of concrete, proving that death-row inmate and journalist Mumia Abu-Jamal could not have shot and killed Philly police officer Daniel Faulkner as described by prosecution witnesses, because there were no divot marks around the body where the missing shots would have had to have landed. Most recently it published an eye-witness report on the secret mass killing and abuse of wild horses by the federal Bureau of Land Management. The paper has provided the only real coverage of populist sheriff’s candidate Cheri Honkala, who vows to make the department an agent for the people, instead of the courts and the banks. It also gave readers the only review they’ll ever find of the Pentagon Channel on cable TV. All this on a budget of $400 for the year!
Meet the staffs of these two extraordinary newspapers, and join in the discussion of the future of alternative journalism. Free drinks and snacks.