The Welcomat, an alternative, underground publication that championed leftist causes, was circulated in Philadelphia from 1971 until 1995, when it became the Philadelphia Weekly. A former writer for Welcomat, Joy Tomme, wrote that the weekly always “prided itself on doing things differently.” Reflecting on her experiences with idiosyncratic writers, editors, and advertisers, she concluded, “There will never be, nor could there ever be, another Welcomat.”
Her remark was rather prescient. Dan McDonough, Jr., Philadelphia Weekly’s current chairman and publisher, has carried on the Welcomat legacy of doing things differently—so different as to veer from the publication’s traditionally progressive editorial voice. In September, Philadelphia Weekly announced their new editorial position: contrarian, and therefore conservative:
For the people who called Philly home and didn’t have a voice — against city hall, against whomever — we were there. Always have been. But, then something happened in Philly: Alt became mainstream. We elected a DA who is anti-cop and doesn’t want to prosecute crimes. We elected a mayor who protects homeless encampments instead of local residents. Being “alt” in 2020 is different than it was years ago. Conservatives are the ones who no longer have a voice — especially here in Philly. People enraged by an inept and ineffectual city government are routinely rejected by the powers-that-be. If you oppose a socialist and intrusive government, your views are rejected by the city’s mainstream media.
Much has changed since the early ’70s in Philadelphia, and the issues long covered by Welcomat and Philadelphia Weekly—the abuses of police officers, and civil rights campaigns, for example—no longer embody the “alternative” credo in 2020.
McDonough hopes the newsweekly will instead provide thorough, honest, and dogged coverage of Philadelphia’s bungling government, which was exacerbated at COVID-19’s onset. “From poverty to record-setting violent crime to the heroin crisis, city leadership continues to fail residents. It’s time for a different approach,” McDonough said. Admirable goals have already been set for this year alone, such as “bring transparency to nonsensical public health policies” and “demand answers to the city’s growing and aggressive street homeless population.”
Although the campaign received the expected flare of pushback on social media, McDonough and company also heard from individuals who enthusiastically support the move. “We’re excited about the long-term growth prospects for PW,” McDonough said. When asked if his decision was the biggest risk he had taken in his professional career, McDonough replied, “Not even close. In fact, this seems in many ways to be an obvious decision to make.”