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The loss of a truth-telling voice

<p>Are CEOs who have amassed their wealth through internet-based businesses necessarily best qualified as a social visionary. CityLife was one of the few publications willing to ask the question.</p>

Are CEOs who have amassed their wealth through internet-based businesses necessarily best qualified as a social visionary. CityLife was one of the few publications willing to ask the question.

In this penultimate issue of the grittiest and only true alt-weekly in Las Vegas, I find it fitting to go out not with a humble whimper, but swinging wildly with the same kind of zeal for telling the truth that made CityLife a unique voice in Southern Nevada for nearly 21 years.

During the paper’s lifetime, its editors and writers delivered old school reportage with a high standard of journalistic integrity and objectivity, earning the recognition of the Nevada Press Association and The Association of Alternative Newsweeklies. At the same time, it also offered a bold and unflinching (mainly) liberal perspective on a wide range of issues. Like any voice perceived too radical, CityLife was often marginalized and discounted for being too far to the Left. Its subject matter wasn’t the sexiest or flashiest. Its content was not likely to attract the kind of people who don’t mind dropping a $1,000 on bottle service at a nightclub, negating a potent source of ad revenue.

In my view, this kind of practical weakness should be worn as a badge of honor, not something to be apologetic over.

The cultural and economic health of communities everywhere depends on writers empowered to express views coming from diverse perspectives. When all is reduced to a popularity contest with winners valued for their material success and outward beauty above all else, the society as a whole suffers. Rather than striving for individual or corporate financial success, I posit that our purpose as humans is getting to become our unique selves and to help each other realize what we are capable of creatively, physically, mentally and emotionally. Fostering respect for social justice, and issues associated with the humanities is what newspapers like CityLife do, indirectly helping more people have a chance at finding happiness.

CityLife’s end will be, without a doubt, another story of the age of electronic media pushing newspapers out of business all over the world. It is also a symptom of an increasingly top-heavy global economy where those at the top gain more power and influence by means of their already formidable power and influence. In this world, the dominant culture has shown it doesn’t value the kinds of perspectives CityLife offers enough for it to stay in print. It also represents another front of the grander cultural battle between those who believe there is high intrinsic value in organic cultural and economic diversity, and those who believe that the acquisition of wealth in and of itself is the mark of human achievement.

Whether myth or reality, the job creating role attached to big business is the sacred cow used to hammer into silence all critical dissent. No matter what anyone says, I will never believe humanity’s purpose is to prop up business, and certainly not just any kind of business so long as it creates jobs. We can come up with more meaningful, profitable ways to use people’s time, talent and energy but not if we look unquestioningly toward people who acquired vast sums of wealth through Internet-based businesses as if this imbued them with omniscience. Whether it’s the CEO of Google, Amazon, Facebook or Zappos, this kind of success in itself qualifies no one as a social visionary. There are people who are more expert in helping humanity reach its potential. Empower and show deference to these people instead.

Though there is altruism and compassion to be found in the ranks of the One Percent, what we see too frequently is wealth acting exclusively in what appears to be its own interests both locally and globally. As commerce is interconnected and interdependent, even this kind of success will inevitably find its limits.

It’s impossible to have whales without plankton.

“Remind me again why being popular is a bad thing,” is the snarky response given to those critical of commercially successful but creatively vapid ventures in culture and commerce. It’s not that being popular is bad; it’s that the tools most often used to gain commercial success reinforce the kinds of abject perspectives that perpetuate greed, materialism, superficiality— things known to work against realizing happiness. Success in the marketplace means appealing to as many people as possible. To do this, messages must be short and simple, and hype is more valued than substance. But the world is complex and has more than enough hype driving people to want things they don’t need.

Good newspapers offer substance. And while they may be on their way out, healthy societies will always need reliable sources of information, well-formed perspectives and strong ideas to support them.

You may not be able to find these in the pages of CityLife after next week but I predict their importance will not be undervalued for long.

HEKTOR D. ESPARZA is a pragmatic idealist and founder of the youth mentoring nonprofit Push Forward.