The IPA and the going out of business movement

If you visit the website of the Independent Press Association, you’ll see this message:

IPA News
The latest news on the Independent Press Association.

IPA has ceased operations effective 12/27/2006. An Assignment for the Benefit of Creditors was executed on that same date.

If you have any questions, please contact Uecker & Associates at (415) 362-3440.

Thank you for all your past support!

So there it goes. See the discussion at Jeremy Smith’s blog post. This will have ripples far beyond Clamor’s closure. The IPA stopped payment on all outstanding checks, by the way, in case you’re holding one. I’m skeptical that Voices That Must Be Heard and any other programs will survive.

My friend (then at Time Out New York) once told me that two’s a fad, three’s a trend. So what’s fifty? A movement? The going out of business movement?

In New York City, Beat Street closed recently, along with Tower Records. Soundtrack, the neighborhood record store of my youth, is also gone. Coliseum Books also just closed their doors.

The meaning of this is captured in Adam Gopnick’s poignant observations about the changing sense of life of New York:

… the sense that the city’s recovery has come at the cost of a part of its identity: that New York is safer and richer but less like itself, an old lover who has gone for a face-lift and come out looking like no one in particular. The wrinkles are gone, but so is the face. This transformation is one you see on every street corner in Manhattan, and now in Brooklyn, too, where another local toy store or smoked-fish emporium disappears and another bank branch or mall store opens. For the first time in Manhattan’s history, it has no bohemian frontier. Another bookstore closes, another theatre becomes a condo, another soulful place becomes a sealed residence. These are small things, but they are the small things that the city’s soul clings to.

It’s not just indpendent media and it’s not just New York. The same could be said about the country as a whole as we lose our farmers in Iowa, our fishers in Gloucester, and our jazz musicians in New Orleans.

So much of Bloomberg’s Manhattanization Project is about increasing the whiteness of New York. Thinking about this made me recall a quote which it seems comes from David Roedinger. He described “Whiteness” as “not a culture but precisely the absence of culture. It is the empty and therefore terrifying attempt to build an identity on what one isn’t and on whom one can hold back.” One might add “… or commodify,” as we see with hipsters.

We need to do more than just support independent media – though we certainly need to do that, especially now. We need to come up with new business models and support structures because it’s a different world. Abby Scher might be right in putting the blame on Richard Landry, the capitalist who ran the IPA into the ground, but any organization devoted to sustaining independent print projects via newsstand sales is destined for the dustbin.

This shake-out of weak or flawed institutions will – and probably should – continue. Right now, corporate media is on its heels, too, understanding that everything is changing but not sure how or how to make money off of it. Those of us who care about independent culture, then, have a brief window of time in which to act first and make up for what seems right now like a lot of lost ground.

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3 Comments

  1. Damon Rich said

    Nice post, Josh.

    You know I have your back in the call for new institutions, and the learning required to build them.

    Glad to see your blog style is really coming into bloom.

  2. Chris said

    Hi Josh,

    I share your concern about Voices That Must Be Heard, the Ippies, and many of the IPA’s non newsstand distro projects. For the record, at least, the IPA-NY is talking a positive game and they don’t seem ready to give up the ship just yet.

    From an email to their membership:

    “Ever since its founding in April 5, 2000 , the New York office has been part of the national Independent Press Associati on based in San Francisco . Beginning later this month, the New York programs will be brought together in a free-standing organization able to work more closely with members. Our staff will be better able to fine-tune programs, focus on local priorities and collaborate with others to provide the best possible services to the ethnic and community press here in the New York area.

    “In the months to come, as we establish the independent infrastructure of the new organization, IPA- New York ’s work will continue uninterrupted, with foundation support and in close collaboration with New America Media, a national organization that shares our commitment to amplifying the voices of the ethnic and community press. Meanwhile, our longtime parent organization, the Independent Press Association, is closing its doors. ”

    So I guess there’s some hope that the projects started by IPA-NYC will survive. But it all seems very touch and go at this point.

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