At Burning Man, two alt weeklies stir up some dust

I’ve been in alt-weekly mode with several fascinating clients this year, and some work with the Association of Alternative News, so I was intrigued to find not one but two alternative weekly newspapers circulating at Burning Man, the annual desert festival of art-culture-camping-music-whatever in the remote desert of Nevada. Well, no wifi or cell phone service for the entire week, so, how you gonna get out your information (and snark)? Newsprint! Here is a look at the two pubs. Warning: As with many words or visuals emanating from Burning Man, files linked here may be NSFW, depending on your work:

BRC Weekly: “From the makers of Piss Clear (the festival’s long-standing but now shuttered weekly paper, which is now memorialized for eternity in a book that you should buy immediately) comes a brand-new Black Rock City newsweekly, featuring insightful articles, comics, and of course, opinionated rants.”

Features included a very interesting cover story on how the festival’s amazing Temple this year went organic and of-the-earth, contrasting with the overall theme, Metropolis, which inspired amazing art installations riffing on urban buildings, transportation, factories, habitation, etc. Download the PDF of the publication here. I loved a lot of BRC Weekly, but especially the terrific infographics by Flint Hahn (visit his website and hire him), including a very cool size comparison of the various temples through the years, and a great chart showing the growth of the Burning Man himself, with corresponding rise in attendance and ticket fees.

BRC Weekly Editor/Publisher Adrian Roberts answers a couple of questions:

What is the hardest thing about publishing at Burning Man? The hardest thing about publishing Piss Clear on the playa was dealing with spotty and unreliable wifi while trying to upload high-quality PDFs to a printer 120 miles away – often around 4 in the morning, when the wifi network was the least clogged with users – and simply hoping with blind faith that they received it okay! Which is why when we relaunched this year as the BRC Weekly, we decided to print the whole thing two days before we left for Burning Man! This alleviated 95% of the stress and headaches we used to endure while trying to publish during the event, while also allowing us to print many more copies – we had a press circulation of 25,000 this year in Black Rock City.

What is the most rewarding thing about publishing at Burning Man? Some people build extravagant theme camps, some create epic art sculptures, while others parade around in elaborate costumes. I publish a newspaper. Let’s face it, practically everything at Burning Man is simply a vanity project gone amuck. My newspaper is no exception. Why else do you think I put my picture on page 2 of every issue? 😉 We do it for the notoriety! But we also do it because if you’re going to build a temporary pretend fantasy city in the middle of the desert, then dammit, that city should be like every other city in America and have an alternative newsweekly. Besides, we need an outlet to print all the funny things we come up with about Burning Man!

Congrats to Adrian, Flint, Steven T. Jones (city editor of the San Francisco Bay Guardian), and all who worked to write, edit, design, print, circulate, and clean up copies of BRC Weekly.

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Next up we have The Shroom, a Burning Man take on The Onion, describing itself as “BRC’s least reliable parody newspaper.” One edition was thrust into my hands at Center Camp near week’s end, but it turns out another edition came out earlier in the week. I think. Download a PDF of Issue One and another of Issue Two to join in on the hilarity. The Shroom is actually quite funny but especially so if you have been to Burning Man or know anything about it. Visit their WordPress website or learn more about them here.

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