Remembering the Philadelphia Independent
When I was a suburbanite traveling into Philly almost every weekend in high school, I used to buy copies of the Philadelphia Independent in their colorful newspaper boxes or at a South Street record store. With multiple mottos including “Too Big To Read On The Subway” and “Beholden To No One,” the Independent was an edgier and more curmudgeonly hip alternative to the Inquirer.
And the Independent was truly far too big to read on the subway, and well, anywhere. I can’t remember exact dimensions, but it really was huge. Now that I have a little design and newspaper layout schooling under my belt, I can see what’s appealing about the design. As a giant paper, the Independent did the unthinkable for a modern paper: it usually fit between 10 and 20 articles on the front page! This extremely ambitious style was immediately antiquated-looking and aggressively modern. No other newspaper staff would be willing to write two or even three headline decks, each more clever than the next.
In terms of content, the articles ranged from the overly long and esoteric, to the impassioned, to the heartbreakingly local. The paper was clearly for young people who were fascinated with journalism and who wanted to make it cool; it certainly inspired me. When I saw it in McSweeney’s Recommends, I nearly blew my top: “The Philadelphia Independent. Perhaps the best local newspaper in the country.”
So then, when I saw in Issue 21 that the Independent was calling it quits, my heart sank a little. However, my personal tribute to the paper would be twofold: First, I wrote a letter to McSweeney’s to inform them about the end. (You can see it here if you search for my name on the page by pressing control or apple and “f”.) Also, my fellow high school newspaper editors and I bought some of their newspaper boxes and repainted them so we would have a permanent distribution system in place. It was a pretty great publication.
If you want to look at more old front pages, check them out here. To read more articles, go here. And also, check out the Crier, a newer publication by some of the people who worked on the Independent.