I remember sitting in the bar I worked at in November of 2016 with friends, watching in abject horror at the screen as we all witnessed state after state go red for Trump. Like roughly half the country, we couldn’t believe what was happening. We knew people didn’t objectively love Clinton, but that night opened our eyes to the fact something was very wrong with the country. What had happened that caused so many people to see Trump not just as a viable candidate but worthy of the office of President? One of the final memories of that night was my manager, a woman of color, tears in her eyes, pouring a shot and shaking her head. The rest was a drunken blur to passing out on the couch and waking up in a hazy mess the next morning, trying to process what had gone so wrong.
Since 1992 Weekly Alibi has been a staple of Albuquerque. I’ve spoken to the effect it had on my upbringing as a youth in this city, and maybe that nostalgia is why I’m here now. We can have a real talk right now and realize that as we were at the start of this year, as a whole, we were unprepared for a global pandemic that would shut down almost all entertainment and outings. It’s safe to say most everyone was in that boat, in one form or another. So what is the number one go-to newspaper for things to do in the city left to do but shift focus. A year ago I was writing about strip club steak and lobster dinners. The whole concept seems so foreign and strange because almost every aspect of what made that story work doesn’t currently exist.
What does exist is the election of the next President, which is less than 100 days away. There are businesses in need of direction and focus from local officials. There is a movement that is getting foreign countries to speak up on behalf of BIPOC Americans who demand equal treatment from law enforcement and basic dignity and respect from other Americans. What I see is a country in need of support. I know that right now it seems like the problems we are facing are insurmountable, and in some ways, they are. How do you call for leadership and accountability from someone who has no fear of tear gassing peaceful protestors so they can have a photo op? How do you quell hatred in the hearts of others? How do you do more than you can reasonably be expected to in support of others when you yourself face many of the same struggles, more or less trapped at home while an economic crisis looms in the near distance?
I have learned that it is OK to feel helpless and to embrace the bleakness. It’s a perfectly reasonable thing to do considering the state of “things” right now. But we have to also equally embrace the joys we find.
My dogs have never been happier (can’t say much for the cats, they seem indifferent) to have me home more often. I learned that I love gardening, now that I have time to pursue it properly, and I very much look forward to the giant field of sunflowers I have created in my yard, as well as the tomatoes that I really hope fruit properly soon. I have learned that friendship isn’t tied to the time I spend with people but to the conversations we have and the emotions we can share between us during those phone calls and texts. I have learned that sitting down for a beer and chatting to a stranger about their lives was something that was integral to better understanding others and something that can’t be replicated anywhere else. Something to look forward to when we get past all this.
Weekly Alibi is very much the same way. Sure, right now we can’t exist the way we used to. Call it a moral responsibility to cover the news you don’t see elsewhere. Call it a necessity of a market change that doesn’t allow us to fill six pages with calendars. Maybe it was a growing pain we weren’t quite ready to go through. Regardless of all that, we’re here now and we’re doing the best we can. We’ve still got a lot to work through before I would say we’re there, and we’re moving at the best pace possible. So what have we learned and changed in the two months of being reopened?
I would say the first and most major change has been our news section. With five separate writers working within this section right now, we’ve been able to give voice to different viewpoints and perspectives that the paper has been missing. Do we need more diversity in this section still? Absolutely. We’re not there yet, and it is an area we hope to improve on in the near future, once we have some flexibility in hiring new staff. This city is made up of people from all kinds of backgrounds, who can see things differently than I could. Their voice matters and deserves to be heard. We are aiming to continue our more direct news approach right now, as we are seeing a really positive response to it.
Our Town Square section is another new addition. This goes back to the fact that we can give a platform to voices that aren’t heard. We talked about it two weeks ago in Letters, but it’s worth repeating. Our Letters section will never go away, and Town Square is meant to be a stand-alone section for groups with a message that they need to get out to speak on that message. Whether we don’t have capacity to cover it or necessary expertise and history with the subject, this is meant to help us ensure we have comprehensive coverage of all things relevant to the city right now. Want to be a part of that? We’ve got the guidelines up on the website right now on how to submit a piece for us. We need them, because we need you. Learn more on how to involve your organization or business through Town Square.
Calendars are gone, for what we would argue is a very obvious reason, but we make a soft promise that this won’t be permanent. The number one thing we’ve heard from readers throughout our nearly three decades of publication has been how important those calendars are to them. Whether you’re a lifelong resident just needing something to eat up your Friday night rather than stay at home or a newcomer to the town who wants to learn about all the coolest things to do and discover, the event calendars have been synonymous with our newspaper. When will they come back? We don’t have a clue. It could be next week, it could be five months from now. We assume it will roughly be around the same time you can honkytonk with a stranger and not risk causing their grandmother to die that those events will reopen, and with it our calendars.
Restaurant reviews. These hold a special place in my heart, because it’s what got me started here at Weekly Alibi, and it’s something I look forward to doing again. On one hand, new businesses need the attention now more than ever. On the other, people are eating out less than ever before, and if we’re going to focus on a restaurant, we want that focus to be when they’re at their best. These are far from ideal operating conditions for most restaurants, and to acknowledge that means that anyone who looks at their review from us in the future will look at it through a scope of, “What did this all mean during a pandemic?” Maybe I’m in the wrong here and we should be doing them right now, or at least attempting a different path. Our goal is to make sure that what we’re doing is in the best interest of everyone, and that our work has efficacy and meaning, both now and in the future. We know they’ll be back, it’s just a matter of how to do it to ensure restaurants get the most benefit from them, now and in the future. For most purposes we can look at our Music section the same way. Clarke is keeping Sonic Reducers coming when we can, but without shows or a dedicated writer in the section, we can’t reliably fill the section, but very much look forward to its return.
As far as the Art, Cannabis and Film sections go, not a lot has changed. We’ve said goodbye to Film Caps for now and will bring them back if theaters reopen and move forward. Cannabis Manual is still printing, and Joshua will still keep giving us the kush coverage we crave. Clarke has Art on lockdown week after week, plus he’s been giving us something new to drink our fears away with recently, so check out his cocktail column. I doubt we plan to change those sections in the future, as they’ve shown they can still exist in a corona-world.
Probably the most notable missing feature of the paper is our advertising. For the reader, it might even feel like a magical blessing to be rid of ads so they have all the content nicely grouped up in a tighter paper. For us, it’s a little more distressing. We’ve been free since day one (or I’ve been being lied to and a thief for a very long time). Currently, and in the future, we plan on continuing free distribution. How are we alive right now? Government business-saving funds. Will that last us forever? Absolutely not. We have a soft internal deadline of when we have to be totally sufficient on advertising again to remain viable. It’s not a fun conversation to have. It’s not even something we genuinely want to think about. But right now, we have to consider what our next steps are.
We are of the opinion that requiring a paywall for our paper isn’t viable. Not that we don’t think our content deserves to be paid for, or that we couldn’t do it, but rather, we really don’t want to. What is going on around us in the city deserves to be freely given information. Hiding information behind a cost is a detriment to those who can’t afford it. Our current solution has been Friends of the Weekly Alibi, a program that functions somewhere between a GoFundMe and a Patreon. For nearly 30 years, we’ve supported unfettered and uncontrolled news coverage. We are not beholden to anyone—except our readers—and we intend to keep it that way. Maybe things will reopen in a month, the advertising will come back in, and there won’t be a worry in the world. Maybe we won’t see normalcy in public until late February, and we’ll be operating off donations and support from readers until then. The link for Friends of the Weekly Alibi can be found at the top of the page at Alibi.com, and in advance, we want to thank you for your continued support.
Thinking back on that morning after election night, I tried to remember what went wrong. I remember news stations covering it nearly nonstop for weeks after. The blame was thrown around to all sorts of sources, but ultimately, it came down to one thing. Whether major news agencies refused to look truth in the eye or accurately cover the feelings of Americans, the point was they missed out on opportunities to cover what half of America was feeling during those months leading up the election. There was a fear and hatred that fueled President Trump and his campaign, one he rode on. It wasn’t their fault at the time. No one like him had existed as a candidate before, and figuring out how to cover him was a learning process happening in real time.
We face election season again, and there’s lessons learned. So what is Weekly Alibi doing back on stands while the world is slowly imploding? We still have a voice. We can cover what is happening and we can inform people. We can try to help defuse anger and fear. We can create a positive impact on our community. We will do everything we can to print every issue possible to try and affect change that betters society. We’ll cover the news, using all available facts to ensure that what is in your hands is the closest thing to the truth you can find out there. I personally know I want to ensure our coverage of local and national elections ensures you know what your vote means and that there is no question of which candidate stands for what you want.
We can’t tell you how to vote, but we can hopefully give you everything you need to make an informed choice and to push the city and country in a direction that aligns with your ideals. Then hopefully, one day in the future, I can sit down and write an article about the $30 lobster tail burrito a local nightclub is serving, and we can all have a good laugh.