You had me at “conservative”

If Philadelphia Weekly makes this move, my next one can't be as its editor-in-chief

Biggs bikes
This publication has always strived to serve as a voice for the voiceless. As much as it rubs our editor the wrong way, he explains why the suggestion to offer more conservative voices on topics that affect Philadelphia can be alt – even if he doesn’t agree with the direction. | PW file illustration

This week, Philadelphia Weekly announced an intent to place more conservative voices and insight within its pages. 

In retrospect, Philadelphia Weekly didn’t have to announce it, there could’ve just been the sourcing of more conservative writers taking a stance on what they believe are the failures of our society sprinkled within our arts and entertainment coverage, our letters from you, our readers and our general progressive-led coverage advocating for the rights of the marginalized and disenfranchised. 

But to be honest, I’m not sure the hundreds who took to social media to throw shade, denounce the paper as “finished” and deliver death threats to both myself and our publisher would’ve even noticed.  

I know this because even before this suggestion arrived, the homework was done. For months, I have been telling our owner Dan McDonough that our audience is still a progressive-leaning Philadelphia. This was backed by weekly audit numbers of our physical copies moving on the streets, digital traffic and engagement across our social media platforms. 

It was this insight that fueled the creation of altPhilly this summer, a membership platform designed to bring these voices together. We believed that in an ever-evolving Philadelphia, one ravaged by COVID-19, a series of protests that fueled full-scale riots following the death of George Floyd in addition to an upcoming election year, the opportunity to have a hub for our readers to discuss these issues really excited us. 

To date, after advertising, social media campaigns and even our own outreach to special groups for support, altPhilly has less than 20 subscribers. If you’re a member of altPhilly and you’re reading this, I want to personally thank you for your support of this publication. 

But if all of these efforts to garner mass support from what you believed was your audience fails – coupled with ever-declining advertising revenue from organizations that would normally support our efforts still climbing out from the shit COVID-19 dumped on them – you have to question if the audience you thought you had truly exists.

It’s funny, after all the hate received on Tuesday from those we originally believed was our “audience,” I really wish they had that same energy when we repeatedly asked for their support to build a community and help keep this publication sustainable. I lost count of the number of people who liked comments dumping on the publication but if every one of those same people had an interest and showed support, I wouldn’t be writing this. 

While I wasn’t surprised at all the trolling on Twitter, I was surprised how much of it was directed at our publisher, Dan McDonough. When McDonough took over this publication in 2018, he took it over with a vision to not change anything. 

In single ownership, he provided a fresh platform, moved the publication back to the city where it belonged and delivered a new website. But since taking it over, McDonough has been hemorrhaging capital to the point where some weeks I was surprised we were still planning upcoming issues. McDonough isn’t MAGA, he’s not waving Trump’s flag and in no way shape, or form in our discussions did he ever suggest the viewpoints of alt-right hacks would ever grace these pages. 

Knowing his character, I believe him. 

He recently admitted that he couldn’t promise sustainability unless a shift came, one backed by a faithful audience and organizations that support alternative journalism. 

“I understand we live in a world of knee jerk reactionism and summations based on headlines. In my opinion, the real issue here is not the suggested switch but what the word “conservative” truly means today.” 

This is believed to be that shift. To have a variety of voices, some that don’t speak for me and some that I align with all mixed in with the same A&E content and robust calendar this pub has delivered since becoming Philadelphia Weekly in 1995. I have been with PW for half a decade and my times sitting in quarterly meetings at Trump National Golf Club in New Jersey discussing the paper’s direction weren’t while McDonough was the publisher-owner. 

I’ll leave it at that. 

Let me end by saying, that I fucking despise this desire to become more conservative. 

Personally, I don’t believe in this current climate there is a middle ground when it comes to conservative viewpoints. To see someone proudly waving a Trump flag or wearing a MAGA hat, you know what they’re all about right off the bat. They aren’t true advocates for equality, because equality doesn’t benefit them. I’ve questioned how much they truly care about the rights and protections of LGBTQ persons, women’s rights, all the things that this publication proudly supports. 

It’s why I’m using this column to announce that I’ll be stepping down as editor-in-chief if Philadelphia Weekly makes this shift. While I do believe this idea to move to more conservative voices alongside our usual contributor corps should receive the support it needs to keep PW sustainable and offer a collection of diverse voices, after giving this a great deal of thought, I don’t believe I can effectively lead this move if it happens with the same vigor as I have for the last five years. 

It’s been a privilege to run this publication and keep alt-journalism sustainable in Philadelphia, but for me, if this is truly the direction, it will be the right time to put a -30- on being at the helm. I have been asked to remain in a writing capacity to routinely call out the bullshit that might hit pages from time to time and that, to me, is intriguing. Not that I’ll sway minds but pointing out what is amiss in these diatribes isn’t a bad thing. 

I understand we live in a world of knee jerk reactionism and summations based on headlines. In my opinion, the real issue here is not the suggested switch but what the word “conservative” truly means today. 

And at the end of the day, it doesn’t speak for the majority of Philadelphia, myself included. But a good alt-weekly isn’t supposed to look out for the majority. It’s in support of shuttered voices – whether you agree with them or not. I don’t have to ride with it, but at its core, that’s what I’ve always believed the best alt-weeklies do.  

  • Kerith Gabriel's Headshot

    Kerith Gabriel is the editor-in-chief at Philadelphia Weekly but somehow hasn’t figured out that means he doesn’t have to write nearly as much. Journalism has been in his blood since his beginnings as a sports writer over a decade ago for the Philadelphia Daily News.