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News & Views of Phillips Since 1976
Thursday May 23rd 2024

The 43-year path traveled by The Alley newspaper

Wendell Phillips


People have told stories, shared information, and offered opinions for many ages and without printed paper and recordings through avenues that have there own style of permanence. Hieroglyphics, art and picture writing provided a means that could be preserved in another style of permanence. The printing press increased the possibility of a broader way to distribute written communication but fewer people were able to produce the writing. Electronic and social media has expanded the amount of communication occurring and with much less expense and to many more people.

In 1976, some people in the Phillips Community knew the benefits of some written form of talking to one another that could also help to preserve the community”'s history. Thus, a newspaper began and took the name “The Alley”, acknowledging some of the most common, honest, and least pretentious, day-to-day conversation happens in backyards and across alleys. It is where basketball is played, cars are repaired, and refuse put in carts. Alley Communications became the name of the nonprofit corporation in 1999 as a way of identifying the organization that had begun to develop a broader mechanism to include other communication projects and strategies in addition to publishing the newspaper.

From its inception as a newspaper, its purpose was to lift the voices of the Phillips Community. Therefore, the organization”'s ownership and governance was to be held by the community. Community ownership, direction, and production are easier said than done. People in the community are busy with their own family life, jobs, and involvement with other organizations. To own and make decisions about one more thing means responsibility and maintenance that take more time and more relationships.

So, what form can be built to accomplish that ownership and control of communication? The need for state registration as a corporation and federal IRS tax exemption leads almost automatically to follow corporate models. Yet common characteristics of corporations are not comfortable or possible for all people to understand or accept. We have juggled this balancing act since 1976.

The Alley Newspaper”'s modest 1976 startup evolved over various phases:
”¢ Start-up Phase””1975 thru 1977
”¢ Growth Phase””1978 thru 1984
”¢ Expansion Growth and Change Phase””1985 thru mid 1995
”¢ Outsourcing Phase””mid-July 1995 thru 1999
”¢ Rebuilding/Rebounding Phase””from 2000 thru 2018

Sometimes, Editors/Managing Editors were paid modestly as employees or paid honorariums for their editing and community engagement skills. Writers were paid honorariums and now, writers are apart of the volunteer contingent. Ad representatives were most often paid a commission though sometimes were an employee of the organization. In the 1980”'s, key writers were employed as regular reporters.

The printed product has evolved from being typed or typeset and“cut and pasted”, to desktop publishing and now to being produced electronically. During the “cut and paste” era, there were many feet of standing desks so that the pages of the paper could be laid out. As has been done for 42 years, the paper is printed on inexpensive newsprint and delivered monthly. Hennepin County Library has reprinted the paper on quality bond paper, bounded in volumes and made available at the Central and Franklin Libraries.
Social media and electronic sites have only begun to be employed with website archives, Facebook, and Twitter. Currently, the paper is 8-12 pages each month. Earlier in the history of The Alley, it was most often 20-24 pages.

We have also always enjoyed including special features and inserts. These have included a 12-page insert in November 2000 about childhood lead poisoning, a special issue on redlining, and regular Phoenix of Phillips inserts in the last several years, etc. In this issue, there is a 4-page insert documenting the 10 years of the Backyard Initiative that was written and produced because a couple of Alley leaders have been key members of the BYI.

Where has the money come from to keep The Alley Newspaper going?
Finances have relied on a mix of advertising revenue, donations, workplace giving organization, grants, recently space sold at a discount for “camera-ready” news and announcements about the community. Currently, 4 neighborhood organizations and the Backyard Initiative each financially contribute to The Alley and provide regular content. We are hoping to expand that concept to other community organizations.

When did the current “Interim Editor” role begin and why?
By 1999, the organization had barely survived an “Outsourcing Experiment”. A for-profit organization was publishing The Alley Newspaper and managing the business side of things. The relationship soured and there was an abrupt separation. Alley Communications was left with little money, the advertising base was hijacked, and a few volunteers had to struggle for years to reclaim many of our documents as well as trying to figure out how to get a newspaper out each month. It was difficult to retain an editor with very little stable funding and a fragile infrastructure.

Harvey Winje was on the Board of Alley Communications, stepped in as a volunteer Interim Editor in 2004, and resigned his board position.

Finally, with the help of the existing Board, Transition Team and other stakeholders, this “interim period” will be ending with the November 2018 issue of The Alley. The sincere hope is both the infrastructure of Alley Communications and The Alley Newspaper will be sustained.

“When the great newspapers don”'t say much, see what
the little independent ones say.”
~ Wendell Phillips
(1811-1884), Phillips Community namesake

Alley Communications, Inc. (revised 1999)
“The Mission of Alley Communications will be to facilitate culture, and creativity in the Phillips Community through publications, research, public forums, classes, workshops, artistic presentations, the Internet, and other means.”


At the “Emerging Mind of Community Journalism” conference in Anniston, Ala., in 2006, participants created a list characterizing community journalism: community journalism is intimate, caring, and personal; it reflects the community and tells its stories; and it embraces a leadership role.

“If you want more of a definition, I”'m afraid it”'s like when someone asked Louie Armstrong for a definition of jazz. The great Satchmo is reputed to have replied something like this: ”˜Man, if you have to ask,it won”'t do me any good to try to explain.”' You know
community journalism when you see it; it is the heartbeat of American journalism, journalism in its natural state.”
”“Jock Lauterer*

*Jock Lauterer is the founding director of the Carolina Community Media Project dedicated to the proposition that great community media help build, strengthen and nurture great communities.

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