Why Regina’s Only Alternative left its office and went underground

Editorial | by Stephen Whitworth

You know what’s fun? Moving! Packing boxes, washing floors and walls, and carrying bookshelves, tables and couches up and down stairs. It’s best when you do it in the middle of a polar vortex.

I’m speaking (sarcastically) from recent experience.

As some of you might have heard, last month Prairie Dog departed its long-time office on the Scarth Street mall (a.k.a. the Frederick W. Hill Promenade). After 15 years and 391 issues, we’ve moved onwards and upwards to fashionable new digs in, um, our respective homes.

We have gone virtual. We work in the Matrix now. It is cool.

That said, some of you might be wondering why we’d leave a sweet, high-profile downtown space with a big, awesome window.

Well, it’s not like we totally wanted to.

Obviously, things like this happen for financial reasons. And as the entire world knows, news media generally and newspapers specifically are getting creamed by advertising declines and the two-headed Google/Facebook ad duopoly. From the Baltimore Examiner to The Tampa Tribune to The Halifax Daily News to the Times Herald in Moose Jaw, venerable newspapers are shutting down across North America. The ones that are still around make brutal cuts just to stay alive.

It’s not a print media problem, either: online outlets like Buzzfeed and The Huffington Post have also slashed jobs (over 1,000 this year!!!) and cut content.

It’s the same in the alternative press. Since 2008 we’ve lost The Village Voice, the San Francisco Bay Guardian, LA Weekly, FFWD in Calgary, Vue in Edmonton, the Mirror and Hour in Montreal, and many, many more.

Prairie Dog — a small, worker-owned co-operative — is, grudgingly, not exempt from reality. And sometimes, we  gotta make tough choices with limited cash.

The frustrating thing is, we know the problem isn’t “the product”. People still read, even on inky newsprint, and enough of you guys like journalism. The problem is an imploding business model. And it is a problem — the decline of journalism is a threat to democracy, which more than ever needs hard facts and fact-based opinions pushing back against spin, misinformation and outright bullshit.

Nobody wants measles epidemics, government and corporate corruption or climate change ignorance. An informed public is a check against all that.

And I don’t think anyone would argue Facebook is making people more informed at this point.

The bottom line is that news media has to survive long enough to figure out how to exist in this bonkers new era. For Prairie Dog right now, that means a cost-saving tactical retreat from a cozy downtown office to fortified burrows in undisclosed locations, from which we shall gleefully plot and scheme toward a revitalized future.

It turns out that working from home is awesome and fun, communication with co-workers is a breeze, and for the first time in years we actually have staff meetings (because now we have to!!!). Probably should’ve done this five years ago.

Also, the coffee in my new office is the best!

Stephen Whitworth is the editor of Prairie Dog and Planet S in Saskatoon. He likes coffee and has nine pet snakes. Support Prairie Dog at prairiedogmag.com/support.