Losing a unique institution

City Pages is under new control and its content is changing.

The red City Pages stands that dot Twin Cities street corners are as reassuringly Minnesotan as Replacements records, I-94 traffic jams and baseball under a hefty-bag roof. But the paper that sits in those newsstands is changing, and everyone who cares about our community and culture should take notice.

This year, longtime City Pages editor Steve Perry and staff writer Britt Robson departed. Their presences will be sorely missed, but we’re more alarmed by the prospects for the future.

In the late 1990s, City Pages was bought by New York-based Village Voice Media, which owned a number of alternative weeklies across the country. Last year, Village Voice merged with New Times Media, with New Times taking over operational control of all combined publications, including City Pages.

Even though City Pages is one of the most profitable and well-respected alternative weekly publications in the country, New Times has decided that the paper doesn’t fit in with their ideas and has hired 30-year-old Kevin Hoffman from the Cleveland Scene to take over as editor. Robson said it best when he told the Boston Phoenix “Somebody in Denver hired somebody in Cleveland to run a paper in Minneapolis.”

The people from New Times don’t understand that papers like City Pages aren’t just writing about the community. They’re part of it. How many times have you picked up a copy to find out what’s going on this weekend, only to be absorbed in a story about police brutality or disingenuous politicians. New Times says that they don’t want “agenda” papers, but really, they’re looking to replace hard-hitting, culturally relevant reporting with apolitical fluff pieces and snarky commentary because that’s what they’ve made their money doing.

We don’t want a cookie-cutter publication that could be written for anywhere in the country and certainly not one willfully ignorant of who it serves. If new editor Kevin Hoffman’s vision for the future is more profiles on hockey goons, the kind of reporting we depend on City Pages for will be sunk.